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French Protesters Rally Over Pension Reform

Demonstrators hold trade union flags during a demonstration in Bordeaux, southwestern France, 16 Oct 2010

Tens of thousands of people are marching in cities across France in the latest protests against President Nicolas Sarkozy's efforts to raise the retirement age.

Workers marched in dozens of cities Saturday, with the largest crowds assembling in the capital, Paris.

Saturday is the fifth day of strikes that have cut train services and grounded flights. Walkouts at oil refineries have cut fuel supplies.

French officials have given oil companies permission to tap into their own emergency stocks, but have insisted there is no reason for drivers to fear a gas shortage.

On Friday, French riot police forced through blockades of protesters to reopen fuel depots, while refinery workers cut a fuel pipeline to Paris and its airports.

Saturday's protests are the latest in a month full of demonstrations and strikes that have affected transportation, hospitals and schools across the country.

Despite the pressure, President Sarkozy's government has refused to change its plan to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. The French Senate will vote on the proposal Wednesday.

France's retirement age is among the lowest in Europe.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.