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New Protest by French Truckers

Operation Snail was launched to slow down traffic on the Bordeaux ring road.

Hundreds of truckers disrupted traffic with go-slow road convoys across France on June 16 in a protest against high fuel prices called by the three main transport unions. Hauliers caused traffic chaos on three access roads to the southern Nice airport, France's third busiest, and on major motorways in the eastern Alsace region and near Lille in northern France.

But highways near the southwestern city of Bordeaux and the Franco-Spanish border were expected to be the hardest hit by the protest against fuel prices that have soared over the past six months, the UNOSTRA truckers' union said.

Operation Snail was launched early June 16 to slow down traffic on the Bordeaux ring road, but union officials said truckers would not block traffic to allow high school students to attend year-end exams. "This is a movement that will be measured and orderly. The idea is to protest and not block everything," said Jean-Paul Deneuville, from the FNTR truckers' union.

The three main hauliers' unions have called for nationwide protests to demand government action to help them cope with the rising price of fuel, caused by skyrocketing oil prices. In Paris, hundreds of private ambulance operators parked their vehicles outside the health ministry building and were demanding a meeting to discuss their dire financial straits. Construction operators moved bulldozers and other machinery in front of the entrances to the western Lorient fuel depot overnight and demanded tax breaks.

Police were dispatched to the site but protesters vowed to keep up the blockade for several days. The protests follows on similar action staged by fishermen and farmers since early May. President Nicolas Sarkozy's government offered aid to the fishermen and is pressing the EU. Sarkozy is set to raise the issue of high oil prices at a two-day EU summit opening on June 19 in Brussels.

Two truckers were killed in Spain and Portugal this month when they were run over at picket lines during protests there against high fuel prices.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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