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France

More than one million strikers march throughout France

media Private and public sector workers demonstrate over pension reform in Paris Reuters/Charles Platiau

Police estimate that more than one million people took to the streets in France on Tuesday. Strikers called on the Sarkozy government to not change the pension age to 62 from the current 60 years of age. Clashes broke out between youths and riot police in several towns throughout France, while shops in Lyon were looted.

Police in Lyon fired tear gas and arrested nine youths who had allegedly turned over cars and set one alight.

The number of people on the streets was slightly less than the 1.23 million people police estimated came out in force on 12 October. The unions, who organised this sixth day of action since September, said that the turnout was 3.5 million, about the same as their estimates from 12 October.

More than 200 protests took place, and included 12 French oil refineries shut down and truckers blocking the roads.

"In a democracy, everyone can express themselves but you have to do so without violence or excesses," said French President Nicolas Sarkozy after meeting with Russian and German leaders in Deauville,France for a summit.

Sarkozy told reporters that he vowed to deal with the fuel issue as soon as he returned to Paris.

Fuel shortages have hit more than 2,600 petrol stations throughout the country. Transport Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said that nearly 4,000 stations are awaiting deliveries out of the 12,500 stations in France.

French fuel and heating federation FF3C said that the situaiton was critical, while the International Energy Agnecy said that France had sufficient stocks to deal with the situation.

Transport was also affected as half the flights out of Orly Airport were canceled, while one flight out of three was canceled at Charles de Gaulle and regional airports.

Unions are hoping to force Sarkozy to drop the bill in front of parliament on Wednesday that will raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.
 

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