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Strikers Lift Blockade at France's Largest Refinery

Tanker trucks load fuel at the refinery of French oil giant Total in Donges, 25 October 2010

Acute fuel shortages continued to plague France Monday even as striking dockworkers ended their blockade of the country's biggest oil port, Marseille.

A quarter of France's gas stations have run out of fuel as most of the country’s 12 refineries remain shut. But oil industry officials said blockades have been cleared at most of the port's fuel depots.

Workers across France are protesting government plans to raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62.

Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said Monday the strikes are costing the nation's economy as much as $560 million per day.

Students plan to hold a day of protests at their universities on Tuesday and labor leaders have called for their ninth one-day nation-wide work stoppage on Thursday.

President Nicolas Sarkozy insists pension reform is required to keep the system from going broke. The reform bill passed the French Senate on Friday.

A majority of French citizens oppose the legislation, and that opposition has seen the president's approval rating plummet. An opinion poll released Sunday found that fewer than 30 percent of those surveyed were satisfied with Mr. Sarkozy's performance -- the lowest level since he took office in 2007.

The president is expected to sign the pension reform bill sometime this week after its formal approval by both houses of the French parliament. Meanwhile, plans are going forward for more demonstrations.

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