Sarkozy hopes end in sight for French pension protest

French President hopes to put his titanic battle to raise the retirement age behind him this week.

Paris: President Nicolas Sarkozy hopes to
put his titanic battle to raise France`s retirement age behind
him this week by signing the measure into law despite a new
wave of strikes, rallies and fuel blockades.

With thousands of families heading off for school
half-term holidays, and lawmakers expected to give the pensions
bill their formal final approval on Wednesday, Sarkozy hopes
the mass protest movement will die away.

But, with today newspaper opinion polls showing the
embattled president more unpopular than ever, trade unions and
student bodies have declared at least two more days of action,
and strikes continue in the key fuel sector.

A poll by the IFOP institute for the weekly JDD found
Sarkozy`s approval rating had dropped below 30 per cent for
the first time, clouding his hopes that passing the pensions
law could kick starts a political comeback.

French university students are planning to march on
Tuesday to defend the right to retire at 60, and trade unions
have called their campaign`s seventh one-day nationwide strike
and day of rallies on Thursday.

Meanwhile, one petrol station in four around the country
has run dry, amid strikes at refineries and blockades of fuel
depots by strikers playing a cat and mouse game with riot
police sent to disperse them.

Government supporters were putting a brave face on
things, however, betting that on Wednesday, when the National
Assembly rubber stamps a pensions law already approved by both
houses of parliament, the movement will fizzle.