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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 October 2005, 07:13 GMT 08:13 UK
Thousands stuck in Corsican ports
Corsican protestors clash with police in Bastia on 1 October
There were violent clashes in Bastia on Saturday
About 15,000 tourists remain stranded on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica, as protesters continue to block ports amid industrial unrest.

On Saturday police removed strikers who had occupied Ajaccio harbour, enabling hundreds to return to the mainland.

But other sea ports - including Bastia - remain blocked by union activists.

They are protesting against the privatisation of the debt-ridden ferry company SNCM, in a dispute that has stoked nationalist feelings in Corsica.

The blockades began on Wednesday, after police arrested four nationalists accused of hijacking an SNCM ship in Marseille on the mainland.

They were released on Friday. But the protests continued, prompting authorities to send riot police to re-open the sea port in Ajaccio.

One ferry sailed to the mainland on Saturday. More ships - with a combined capacity for about 3,000 passengers and 1,000 cars - are due to depart on Sunday.

Restive island

Later on Saturday violence erupted in Bastia, the second-largest city on the island, with youths wearing balaclavas clashing with police.

Overnight a bomb went off on a customs patrol boat in the city's harbour. No-one was wounded.

SNCM, which is owned by the state, has been plagued by debts, strikes and competition from private operators.

Plans to privatise the company, with the expected loss of about 400 jobs including some in Corsica, has ignited tensions there.

The island has been plagued by separatist violence for three decades.

On Thursday a rocket was fired at the authorities' headquarters in Ajaccio, causing damage but injuring no-one.

Protests have also affected the mainland. Marseille sea port had been closed for five days because of a strike over the SNCM sell-off.

On Saturday police removed blockades at two oil facilities near Marseille.

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