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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 September 2005, 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
French anger grows at fuel prices
By Caroline Wyatt
BBC News, Paris

The petrol price rises that have prompted protests in the UK have also caused discontent in France.

Closed petrol pumps
Despite increasing public concern, panic buying is yet to hit France

This despite a move there last week, by petrol companies Total, BP and Esso, to lower prices at the pump by three cents for unleaded petrol.

Earlier this week, the French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin tried to pacify farmers and lorry drivers who were threatening protests unless the price of petrol came down.

Mr de Villepin announced several tax breaks specifically for farmers, including tax credits, as well as tax rebates for some commuters.

However, there's no sign as yet that the French government is prepared to cut fuel duties - unlike in the year 2000 when France's move to lower fuel duty helped spark protests in Britain.

This time, the French cabinet appears to prefer to take indirect measures in the hope of facing down any protests.

Tax threats

Although taxi drivers and fishermen have staged some small demonstrations, there has been no co-ordinated strike action as yet.

Speaking on French radio this week, Mr de Villepin warned that France and the rest of the world would have to get used to more expensive petrol prices as the world entered a "post-oil" era.

Asked if he could envisage life without a car, Mr de Villepin claimed to adore public transport and walking, an answer that may have failed to impress

Nonetheless, the French government seems determined to keep up the pressure on oil companies to bring down prices, threatening them with an extra tax on profits if they did not invest more in renewable energy.

Asked if he himself could envisage life without a car, Mr de Villepin claimed to adore public transport and walking, an answer that may have failed to impress the French public.

They are waiting eagerly to see the results of this coming Friday's meeting between oil companies and the French finance and economics minister, who are expected to discuss further measures to help ease the pain for French motorists, farmers and fishermen.



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