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Anti-fuel protests hit Germany

German farmers protest against fuel taxes
Protesters target Schroeder  

BERLIN, Germany -- Hundreds of German lorry and bus drivers have converged on Berlin in an effort to budge the government from its refusal to meet their demands for lower fuel taxes.

As the rest of Europe returns to normal fuel delivery at petrol stations after a series of demonstrations this month, Germany continues to witness disruption.

  ALSO
In depth: Europe's fuel crisis

A 250-strong convoy of coaches, lorries and tractors took to the road in Stuttgart on Monday while demonstrations took place in Hanover, Leipzig and Dresden and the state of Bavaria over the weekend.

They were lining up again on Tuesday morning on both sides of the capital's main East-West axis through the Tiergarten park in preparation for a "go-slow" as commuters headed to work.

"Chancellor, we have had enough," a sign on one truck read, but Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has refused to add to his limited concessions and roll back petrol taxes, unlike his counterparts in France and Italy.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was addressing the Labour Party's annual political conference in Brighton on Tuesday, said he would not consider a reduction in fuel tax before the next budget, expected to be in November.

German Police expected about 2,000 trucks to start driving into the centre of the Berlin along three approved routes for a rally near Berlin's landmark Brandenburg Gate . Farmers said about 500 tractors would join the demonstration, which was expected to cause severe disruption to traffic in Berlin.

Many Berliners who did not heed calls for an ecological "car-free" day last week did leave their vehicles at home on Tuesday, using public transport and the city's many bicycle lanes. About 2,000 officers have been deployed in an effort to prevent the action spreading beyond the agreed convoy routes. Schroeder has announced relief measures for commuters and welfare recipients hit by soaring petrol and heating oil prices in recent months. But lorry drivers remain dissatisfied.

Opposition conservatives want the government to follow the example set last week by the U.S. and sell part of Germany's strategic oil reserves in a bid to lower current oil prices -- a move Berlin is resisting. London Brent futures slipped below $30 a barrel on Monday for the first time since August after the U.S. decision, but later rebounded. They had already fallen $1.50 on Friday in anticipation of the release.

Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
In-Depth: Europe's Fuel Crisis
Berlin stands firm over fuel protest
September 20, 2000
German oil giants deny 'price fixing' claim
September 21, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Oil Price Information Service
World Petroleum Congress
German Bundestag
European Union

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