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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 March 2007, 13:00 GMT 14:00 UK
Talks held on Marseille port row
Dock workers protest in Marseille
French motorists could be hit by fuel shortages by April
Talks have begun to resolve a dispute at the French port of Marseille which is threatening to choke off fuel supplies in the country.

A strike by workers at the Mediterranean terminal Fos-Lavera over employment at a new Gaz de France (GdF) terminal is now in its third week.

The action could spill over into the campaign for the French presidential election if consumers are affected.

Activity in about half of France's 13 refineries is already depressed.

Crucial

The regional government administrator, Christian Fremont, met leaders of the Marseille port authority, representatives of the Confederation Generale du Travail (CGT), which called the strike, and Gilles Bavuz, head of terminal operations for state-owned GdF.

Fifty seven ships, including 33 oil tankers, 18 chemical carriers and six liquefied natural gas (LNG) ships are lying at anchor offshore near the terminal.

"The lack of supplies means some refineries are going to start eating into reserves from this week and slowing down production.

"The first problems for private consumers could appear at the start of April," said Jean-Francois Cousinie of the French Union of Petroleum Industries."

The Marseille port is the world's third biggest for dealing with oil products and is crucial for exports to the US.




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