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The BBC's Simon Jones
"Hundreds of petrol stations have already run dry"
 real 56k

UK Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw
"We are working very hard to make sure that supplies are resumed"
 real 28k

The BBC's Jim Fish
"Every other government in Europe is bracing itself for a test of wills"
 real 56k

The BBC's Rob Norris
"If anyone was hoping for comfort from the meeting of Opec ministers in Vienna, then they must now be disappointed"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 12 September, 2000, 05:37 GMT 06:37 UK
Fuel protests build across Europe
Some of the tanker trucks blocked in at the Ellesmere oil refinery,
Two-thirds of Britain's refineries have been blocked
Protests over high fuel prices have been gathering momentum across western Europe.

Lorry drivers, farmers, and other fuel users have blocked oil installations and disrupted traffic in towns in Germany, Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Although nearly all the blockades which crippled France last week have now been lifted, elsewhere protesters have been encouraged by the concessions their French counterparts won.

The UK Government has been given authority to take emergency powers to ensure fuel distribution, after the blockade and panic-buying by motorists led to many petrol stations running dry.

Stockpiling

Lorry drivers and farmers in Britain have blocked off six refineries, causing thousands of filling stations to run out of fuel. The move prompted motorists to start stockpiling fuel.

Liverpool taxi drivers blocking rush-hour traffic
Taxi drivers in Liverpool, England, blocking rush-hour traffic
In Belgium, lorry drivers brought traffic in Brussels to a standstill while in Germany, they threatened to disrupt the transport network from Thursday if the government did not offer relief from fuel costs.

Irish drivers also threatened to take action on Friday if a demand for a 20% cut in diesel duty was not met.

French example

France has called for a meeting of European transport ministers to discuss the possibility of harmonising fuel prices and taxes.

Lorry drivers parked in front of the Norwegian parliament
Lorry drivers parked in front of the Norwegian parliament
The French authorities are working on a comprehensive plan to save energy in response to the surge in world oil prices.

It is likely to take another week for fuel supplies to get fully back to normal in the country after days of crippling protests.

However, the UK and German Governments said they would not follow the French lead and concede to demands for lower fuel taxes.

Brussels standstill

The French-style protest in Belgium saw dozens of lorry drivers block the centre of Brussels with parked vehicles, hampering access to government and European Union offices.

map
The country's main refinery at Fleecy was also blocked.

Talks with transport officials collapsed on Monday after drivers walked out of a meeting with Transport Minister Isabelle Durance.

The protests have forced thousands of commuters to take detours to work or use public transport.

The hauliers say a 50% rise in the cost of diesel fuel since the beginning of 1999 is threatening profitability.

Italians threaten strike

In Germany, lorry drivers and farmers have ignored the country's strict laws against unauthorised strike action.

They have already blocked traffic in two towns and threaten next to block motorways calling for an end to environmental taxes.

Commuters in Brussels seek alternative means of transport
Commuters in Brussels seek alternative means of transport
But the German Transport Minister, Reinhard Klimmt, said the government would not back track on the "ecology tax".

Italian lorry drivers are also threatening to strike and a refinery in Sicily is under blockade.

Transport companies are joining forces with farmers, fishermen and other groups for a day of action on Friday.

Hard-pressed industries everywhere complain the three-fold increase in crude oil prices has brought huge windfall profits to governments.

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See also:

12 Sep 00 | Business
World 'faces oil crisis'
12 Sep 00 | UK
Blair confronts fuel crisis
11 Sep 00 | Middle East
Arab world blames Western freeloaders
11 Sep 00 | UK
UK fuel shortages worsen
11 Sep 00 | Europe
France looks for energy savings
11 Sep 00 | UK
Fuel price cut ruled out
05 Sep 00 | Europe
Europe faces fuel dilemma
06 Sep 00 | Europe
Analysis: A very French blockade
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