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30 Jun, 2008 14:41

Fuel protesters bring chaos to French roads

A series of protests over the price of fuel have brought many roads in France to a standstill. Lorry drivers are demonstrating against high fuel taxes, which they say are threatening to put them out of business. Hauliers

In French, they call it ‘operation snail’.  Dozens of lorry drivers have joined a go-slow in Paris and other cities. Huge tailbacks brought chaos to the French capital, while traffic ground to a halt in the cities of Bordeaux and Nice.

It’s the second wave of protests this month that have brought French highways to a virtual standstill.

Truckers say they can’t compete with European rivals because they pay more in fuel taxes than those in neighbouring countries.

They want President Sarkozy to do something about it when France takes over the rotating EU presidency this week. The French leader is expected to ask for a reduction in VAT on fuel across the EU.

But it could leave several member states with serious holes in their budgets and Sarkozy faces a fight to give the drivers what they want.

Meanwhile, the price of oil on world markets has rocketed to $US 143 per barrel, and it’s hitting hauliers in the pocket.

“My truck holds around 900 to 1000 litres of fuel. A few months ago it cost 900 euros to fill it up. Now it’s closer to 1,200 euros,” said one lorry driver.

The anger at petrol prices is being felt across Europe, with protests taking place in Spain and Portugal as well.