Sarkozy brings out riot police to free up fuel supply
Riot police were ordered yesterday to remove protesters from France's refineries after filling stations started running out of fuel and supplies to Paris airports were shut off.
Several hundred forecourts were out of supplies, according to the Union of Independent Oil Importers. Workers were on strike in all 12 of the country's oil refineries for the first time since 1968 as opposition hardened to Nicolas Sarkozy's pension reform, which aims to raise the legal retirement age from 60 to 62 and full pension age from 65 to 67.
The country was braced for more mass protests today.
Officers launched a dawn raid to open the gates of Fos-Sur-Mer in Marseille, the principal fuel depot in south-eastern France, along with three others in Bassens and Lespinasse in the south-west and Cournon d'Auvergne in the centre of the country.
The refinery stoppages caused the closure of a fuel pipeline feeding the south of Paris and the Orly and Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airports. Orly has two weeks of kerosene but Roissy has enough for only a few days.
Strikes and demonstrations around the country brought more than a million people on to the streets last Tuesday, and workers in sectors including rail and energy have kept up stoppages since.
Besides rolling strikes, the government is concerned about secondary school protests. A policeman was injured by pupils throwing stones in Cannes and surgeons tried to save the sight of a 16-year-old boy hit by a police 'Flash-Ball', a gun that fires a soft rubber ball, in a Paris suburb.
Polls show the unions have massive public support. "The government is betting on this movement breaking down. I think we have the means to disappoint them," said Bernard Thibault, leader of the CGT.
Mr Sarkozy, however, has shown no sign of backing off.
He sees the reform as key to his re-election in 2012 and is understood to have told aides: "If we must face a long strike, we'll do it. A part of the country will be thankful that we brought the extremists to their knees." (© Daily Telegraph, London)