Police break fuel blockades in France strike

Police cleared protestors blockading French fuel depots and youths skirmishing with police.

Paris: Police cleared protestors blockading
French fuel depots on Wednesday and youths skirmished with police as
the government warned of economic damage from prolonged
strikes against its pensions reform.

A third of France`s filling stations ran dry yesterday,
the government said, while cars were set alight and shops
looted on the sidelines of protests that brought a million
people into the street.

"If it is not stopped quickly, this disorder which is
aimed at paralysing the country could have consequences for
jobs by damaging the normal running of economic activity,"
President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement today.

Workers in several key sectors have been on strike for a
week to protest the pensions reform, which the government says
is essential to reduce France`s public deficit. Unions and
political opponents say it penalises workers.

Sarkozy said he had ordered police to break the blockades
at all fuel depots blocked by protests, refusing to back down
on the reform which the Senate is scheduled to vote on
definitively tomorrow.

Three depots were peacefully reopened overnight on
Sarkozy`s orders, Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux said, but
protestors have blockaded several more, police and a news agency reporters said.

"We will continue to unblock these depots as much as
necessary," Hortefeux said. "We will not let the country be
blockaded and we will not let the thugs go unpunished," he
added, referring to those arrested in street riots.

Disturbances broke out for a third day this morning in
the eastern city of Lyon and the Paris suburb of Nanterre, the
scenes of clashes between police and youths yesterday.

Youths burned a car and damaged buildings in Nanterre and
in Lyon riot police dispersed groups of rioters and a van was
set on fire, a news agency reporters said. Hortefeux announced he would
visit Lyon.


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