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Queues For Petrol In France As Strikes Hit

French protests over high fuel prices have taken a turn for the worse forcing motorists to join long queues at petrol pumps in a surge of panic buying caused by strike-paralysed fuel distribution outlets. John Howard reports.

French motorists are joining long queues as freight drivers and farmers paralyse distribution outlets in a second wave of strikes within days over spiraling fuel prices.

Police refused to intervene as protesters sealed off 60 of the country's 70 main oil installations by parking vehicles to prevent fuel tankers entering or leaving.

In some areas petrol stations are running out of product as cars formed in long queues in a bid to beat eventual fuel shortages.

Talks between government and the main business groups representing fuel users have broken down with no result, but a new round of talks is due to begin today.

Fuel costs have risen by 40 per cent over the last year with the French paying the second highest level of fuel taxation in the EU after Britain, with tax accounting for 83 per cent of the price at the pump and 77 per cent of the diesel price.

Farmers have joined the protests complaining of similar fuel-price problems saying they will not budge until they get what they want.

Taxi drivers, private ambulances, foresters, bus drivers and water and waste water transporters are also likely to join the strike action tomorrow and Thursday.

Fishermen have already won a major concession from the government over fuel tax and have ended their blockade of French ports.

Commentators say that having given way to the fishermen Socialist Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, is in no position to resist for long the demands of other industry sectors and the only question now was the scale and nature of government's fuel tax reductions.

Jospin now says he is "ready to take specific measures for the sectors in most difficulty" as a result of the oil price rises.


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