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Protesting Truckers Choke Roads, Supplies to France's Gas Stations

Aired September 8, 2000 - 2:08 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The global impact of the rising fuel prices already is highly visible in France. France is experiencing wave after wave of protests over fuel costs. Barricades set up by a truckers union are choking supplies to 80 percent of France's gas stations.

ITN's Bill Neely has the latest on the protests there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL NEELY, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): Day five and still the tractors and lorries snarl up motorways across France, roads and petrol stations almost emptied by the revolt against high prices, the authorities making little attempt to break the blockade.

Instead, the government is buying off the unions one by one. Today, a second lorry drivers union struck a deal and recommended an end to the blockade, but many drivers don't like it.

"We're going to take the economy hostage," he says. "This prime minister is finished."

And so in Paris, lorries blockaded the Finance Ministry. France's coffers are overflowing. These drivers want something more than just price increases.

But the two big drivers unions have now agreed a deal, leaving one isolated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not all what we wanted, offers, but still we got something.

NEELY: Farmers, so far, have got nothing, and they can see the first cracks in this blockade.

(on camera): Is it over for you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, not at all. Not at all.

NEELY: But it's the lorry drivers who are the power behind this dispute and who brought France to a standstill. These farmers cannot block fuel depots on their own. Today, we see the end of this dispute, but it is the beginning of the end. (voice-over): At the channel tunnel and the channel ports, the fires are burning, but the way to Britain is not blocked. Drivers just have to find the petrol to get there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been taken off the motorway about three times and stuck in queues to here. And I'm down to -- as you can see, the needle's right down past the point of no return.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We keep getting stopped and diverted without any petrol. Obviously we're with a group of disabled people, so they're getting really uptight.

NEELY: Everyone is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How can they block up Belgium, Paris, everything?

NEELY: It may not be blocked for long. The government is now preparing to talk to and buy off the farmers and end this French misery.

Bill Neely, ITN, Calais.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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