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Demonstrations Continue as French Senate Debates Reform Bill

Police in a town near Paris use teargas to disburse protesters demonstrating against a plan to increase the French retirement age, 20 Oct 2010

Demonstrators protesting a proposed French law to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 continued to disrupt France for a seventh day.

Some public transport in Paris, and many regional trains were running better than when the protests against raising the retirement age began a week ago. But strike leaders said they disrupted traffic at four airports, including Paris' Orly Airport.

Overnight authorities forcibly ended a blockade at three refineries so gas stations could receive fuel deliveries. Many stations across France had run out of fuel.

The protests have attracted French of all ages and some demonstrations have turned violent. There were scuffles and the police used teargas at a relatively small demonstration outside the Senate building.

The widespread strikes and demonstrations are over reform legislation that would raise the retirement age two years, to 62. French Senator Marie-France Beaufils says the change is necessary to keep the economy sustainable and to protect retirees.

She says we are for the French system, a system of solidarity where the workers pay to support those who are retired.

But she said she does not support an American-style system based on capitalism.

Beaufils says the debate in the Senate has been fierce and she anticipates the legislature will vote on the law Thursday or Friday. President Nicolas Sarkozy has vowed that his party (the Union for a Popular Movement) will pass the reform.

Senator Michel Billout says even if the law is passed, it probably will not end the unrest.

He says opinion polls show that 70 percent of the French population is against this law. He says even if it is passed, the demonstrations will not stop.