Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Bid to restore French fuel supplies

French students hold up their hands painted with 'No' during a protest in Paris (AP)

The French government has moved to cut short Senate debate on its controversial bid to raise the retirement age as unions vowed to keep up the campaign which has hit petrol supplies and brought thousands onto the streets.

The opposition has tabled hundreds of amendments to the bill raising the retirement age to 62.

The government is ordering senators to vote on a package under which they can still present the remaining 250 amendments - of some 1,000 - but they cannot vote on each one.

Labour Minister Eric Woerth said the debate was in the third week, and "it's time for the Senate to act."

A Senate vote is expected by the end of the week. Each chamber gets a final vote next week.

Protesters blockaded Marseille's airport, Lady Gaga cancelled concerts in Paris and rioting youths attacked police in Lyon.

A quarter of the nation's petrol stations were out of fuel, despite President Nicolas Sarkozy's orders to force open depots barricaded by striking workers.

Petrol shortages and violence on the margins of student protests have heightened the standoff between the government and labour unions that see retirement at 60 as a hard-earned right.

New violence broke out in Lyon, as police chased rampaging youths who overturned a car and hurled bottles. Riot officers tried to subdue the violence with tear gas. A gendarme helicopter circled overhead.

"It is not troublemakers who will have the last word in a democracy," Sarkozy told local officials in central France, promising to find and punish rioters. He accused strikers of "taking the economy, businesses, daily life hostage."

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