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France Calls for European Union to Ease Gas Taxes


The French government has called for the European Union to suspend certain gas taxes and for OPEC to increase production as part of a series of measures to ease the high cost of oil - which has topped $130 a barrel. Lisa Bryant reports from Paris European fishermen and British truckers are protesting soaring diesel prices.

During an early morning radio interview, French President Nicolas Sarkozy outlined plans for domestic energy subsidies and heating fuel rebates for poorer French.

Mr. Sarkozy also said he would ask the European Union to consider suspending some value-added tax on oil products if prices continue to rise. But he cautioned the proposal still needs to be accepted by all 27 EU members.

The high oil prices are causing much unhappiness in France - particularly for fishermen, who have blocked ports partly in protest over the cost of diesel fuel, which has almost doubled in just six months. Fishermen in Spain have also joined the work stoppage and other fishermen, in Italy, Greece and elsewhere in Europe say they may join the movement,

In Britain, hundreds of truckers are converging on London, where they brought a petition for Prime Minister Gordon Brown that demands compensation for high fuel prices. Diesel prices have jumped by nearly 50 percent during the past 12 months and the truckers say they cannot accept government plans for fuel and road tax increases later this year.

The British government has already delayed the planned increase in fuel taxes by six months.

European governments are scrambling for ways to ease the high cost at the pump, where prices have risen to $2.50 cents a liter or more.

French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said she would urge her counterparts at a Group of Eight meeting in Japan next month to press OPEC to increase oil production if prices continued to rise.

The Italian government says it will introduce targeted cuts on transportation taxes. In the United States, the House of Representatives passed legislation last week offering incentives for renewable energy producers.

In France, President Sarkozy cautions that tax cuts and incentives only go so far. He says France must rely more on alternative energy and French must learn to conserve.

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