Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 3 March 2015

French police force open fuel depot

A student stands near riot police officers in Lyon, central France (AP)
A student stands near riot police officers in Lyon, central France (AP)
Riot police officers take position during clashes with youth in Nanterre, outside Paris, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010.
Oil workers react at the Grandpuits refinery, eastern Paris (AP)
Riot police officers detain a youth during a student demonstration
Oil workers stand outside the Grandpuits refinery, east of Paris (AP)
PARIS - OCTOBER 18: French Union workers burn tyres as they block the entrance of the oil refinery of Grandpuits, on October 18 , 2010, east of Paris, France. President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age to 62 has enraged some oil workers as their open-ended strike enters its seventh day. Furthermore, some 900 gas stations across France have run out of fuel due to the striking workers protests. (Photo by Julien M. Hekimian/Getty Images)
PARIS - OCTOBER 18: French Union workers burn tyres as they block the entrance of the oil refinery of Grandpuits, on October 18 , 2010, east of Paris, France. President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age to 62 has enraged some oil workers as their open-ended strike enters its seventh day. Furthermore, some 900 gas stations across France have run out of fuel due to the striking workers protests. (Photo by Julien M. Hekimian/Getty Images)
PARIS - OCTOBER 18: French Union workers burn tyres as they block the entrance of the oil refinery of Grandpuits, on October 18 , 2010, east of Paris, France. President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age to 62 has enraged some oil workers as their open-ended strike enters its seventh day. Furthermore, some 900 gas stations across France have run out of fuel due to the striking workers protests. (Photo by Julien M. Hekimian/Getty Images)
PARIS - OCTOBER 18: French Union workers burn tyres as they block the entrance of the oil refinery of Grandpuits, on October 18 , 2010, east of Paris, France. President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age to 62 has enraged some oil workers as their open-ended strike enters its seventh day. Furthermore, some 900 gas stations across France have run out of fuel due to the striking workers protests. (Photo by Julien M. Hekimian/Getty Images)
PARIS - OCTOBER 18: Smoke rises as French Union workers burn tyres to block the entrance of the oil refinery of Grandpuits, on October 18 , 2010, east of Paris, France. President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age to 62 has enraged some oil workers as their open-ended strike enters its seventh day. Furthermore, some 900 gas stations across France have run out of fuel due to the striking workers protests. (Photo by Julien M. Hekimian/Getty Images)
Youth clash with riot police officers, unseen, in Nanterre, outside Paris, Monday Oct. 18, 2010
Riot police officers walk past a burning car during clashes with youth in Nanterre, outside Paris, Monday Oct.18, 2010. French oil workers are intensifying their fight against President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age to 62, a conflict that has hobbled transport and sparked scattered gas shortages. French youth who have rallied to the cause, meanwhile, burned tires or set up blockades outside some schools in Paris and nearby suburbs on Monday. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)
PARIS - OCTOBER 18: Soldiers stand guard in front of the Eiffel Tower on October 18, 2010 in Paris, France. France has been warned by Saudi Arabia that it is a potential target for an al-Qaeda attack. (Photo by Franck Prevel/Getty Images)
PARIS - OCTOBER 16: French students demonstrate against retirement reform with "No to the reform" written on their faces on October 16, 2010 in Paris, France. French unions staged a national day of strikes over the government's pension reforms, which include President Nicolas Sarkozy's attempt to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. (Photo by Franck Prevel/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***
Youth clash with riot police officers, unseen, in Nanterre, outside Paris, Monday Oct. 18, 2010. French oil workers are intensifying their fight against President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age to 62, a conflict that has hobbled transport and sparked scattered gas shortages. French youth who have rallied to the cause, meanwhile, burned tires or set up blockades outside some schools in Paris and nearby suburbs on Monday. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)
Youth face riot police officers during a students demonstration in Lyon, central France, Monday Oct. 18, 2010. French oil workers defied the government's demand Monday to get back to work and end scattered fuel shortages, stepping up their fight against President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age to 62. Youths and truckers escalated the protests.(AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
Youths shout slogans during a student demonstration, on the Champs Elysees, in Paris, Monday Oct. 18, 2010. French oil workers defied the government's demand Monday to get back to work and end scattered fuel shortages, stepping up their fight against President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age to 62. Youths and truckers escalated the protests. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus)
Riot police officers detain a youth during a student demonstration in Lyon, central France, Monday, Oct. 18, 2010. French oil workers defied the government's demand Monday to get back to work and end scattered fuel shortages, stepping up their fight against President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age to 62. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
French Union workers burn tires to block the entrance of the oil refinery of Grandpuits eastern of Paris, Monday, Oct. 18 ,2010. Some oil workers pledged to keep up a protest at refineries, and one union warned of looming gasoline shortages as an open-ended strike against President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age to 62 entered its seventh day.(AP Photo/Francois Mori)
A riot police officer faces youth near a burning car in Nanterre, outside Paris, Monday, Oct.18, 2010. French oil workers are intensifying their fight against President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age to 62, a conflict that has hobbled transport and sparked scattered gas shortages. French youth who have rallied to the cause, meanwhile, burned tires or set up blockades outside some schools in Paris and nearby suburbs on Monday. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon)
Riot police officers walks by an overturned car during a students demonstration in Lyon, central France, Monday Oct.18, 2010. French oil workers defied the government's demand Monday to get back to work and end scattered fuel shortages, stepping up their fight against President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age to 62. Youths and truckers escalated the protests.(AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)
Riot police officers detain a youth during a students demonstration in Lyon, central France, Monday Oct.18, 2010. French oil workers defied the government's demand Monday to get back to work and end scattered fuel shortages, stepping up their fight against President Nicolas Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age to 62. Youths and truckers escalated the protests.(AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

French riot police have pushed aside striking oil workers and forced the reopening of a strategic refinery.

The action, aimed at reversing growing fuel shortages, took place as the French Senate looked ready to approve the controversial pension reforms at the heart of the union-led protests.

The Interior Ministry said the operation at the Grandpuits fuel refinery succeeded "without incident", but the CGT union said three workers were injured. Emergency workers took stretchers to the depot, which is 50 miles (80km) east of Paris, the closest source of petrol supplies to the French capital.

Helmeted officers in body armour descended overnight on Grandpuits, confronting workers who shoved back and shouted union slogans as they sought to keep police from opening the gates to the depot, run by oil giant Total SA.

"We are outraged, scandalised," said Charles Foulard, a union leader at the Grandpuits depot. The refinery at Grandpuits had been a bastion of resistance to President Nicolas Sarkozy's bid to raise the retirement age to 62.

Despite the government's efforts to conquer resistance, Prime Minister Francois Fillon said it would take several more days to end petrol shortages which are taking a toll on the country's economy.

The Senate neared the end of a debate which has taken more than 130 hours, the second longest for 30 year. MPs, mostly opposition Socialists, submitted a staggering 1,237 amendments, but Mr Sarkozy's conservative UMP party and its allies have a majority and dismissed nearly all the amendments. After the Senate vote, the final text goes back to both houses for final formal approval, which is expected next week.

Unions oppose a pillar of the reform - raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 - and have staged months of strikes and protests which have boiled over into radical action and scattered clashes.

Mr Sarkozy had ordered regional authorities to intervene and force open depots, accusing the strikers of holding ordinary people and the French economy "hostage".

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