Riot Police Sent In To Remove Protesters At French Refineries


Workers in all 12 of the country's oil refineries were hit by strikes for the first time since 1968.

The police action came as protests against Nicolas Sarkozy's pension reform, which will raise the legal retirement age from 60 to 62, hardened and the country braced for more mass protests on Saturday.

Officers launched a dawn raid to open the gates of Fos-Sur-Mer, in Marseilles, the principal fuel depot in southeastern France, along with three other depots in Bassens and Lespinasse in the southwest and Cournon d'Auvergne in the centre of the country. Workers belonging to the main CGT union said they were under orders not to resist police.

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 airports has two weeks of kerosene stocks but Roissy is only in the clear until early next week.

Fears of petrol shortages has led the government to authorise companies to start running down their emergency fuel stocks.

In a further sign of escalation, Air France protesters blocked a terminal at Paris's Orly airport and lorry drivers pledged to cause blockages. "