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Protesters Suspend Massive Fuel Blockade in Britain

Aired September 14, 2000 - 1:40 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: Tanker trucks are rolling out of British fuel depots again following the suspension of a massive tax protest.

But as CNN's Richard Blystone now reports, truckers may resume that blockade if the British government ignores their complaints about the high fuel prices.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RICHARD BLYSTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): British protesters decided to fence off the moral high ground while they've got it and not be blamed for bringing Britain to its knees. But with opinion polls running strongly against Europe's highest fuel taxes, there's a proviso: talks with government ministers and a cut in taxes within 60 days or they'll be back.

With the public still angry over fuel cues, curtailed bus, postal and hospital services, that's a potent threat to Prime Minister Tony Blair, who could pay the price in national elections next year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not just the motorists, it's everyone that's affected. So he should just put it down, basically.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People have got very short-term memories.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the next budget, he's got to take the tax off the diesel. We're the laughing stock of the world.

BLYSTONE: As few supplies started flowing again, Mr. Blair made a plea for understanding.

TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Whatever the strength of feelings on the price of petrol -- and I'm well aware of the strength of those feelings -- I do hope that, over time, people will carefully reflect on recent events. However much people may dislike paying petrol duty, there is no way that any government of this country could or should yield to this form of protest.

BLYSTONE: Unlike the British, Belgian authorities have been talking with protesters with the blockades still in place, protesting Belgian truckers taking care to be polite to drivers.

With Brussels, the capital of Europe, tied up, the Belgian government, like the German and British, argues tax cuts are wrong. (on camera): But they all must be feeling the grass roots quaking beneath them.

Richard Blystone, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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