Belgian truck drivers extend fuel protest blockade

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The Independent Online

Truck drivers in Belgium expanded protests against high fuel prices Monday, blockading the country's largest oil refinery and jamming main arteries in the Belgian capital.

Truck drivers in Belgium expanded protests against high fuel prices Monday, blockading the country's largest oil refinery and jamming main arteries in the Belgian capital.

Several hundred truck drivers continued to block main roads leading to downtown Brussels, 24-hours after a the start of a demonstration by thousands of truckers, taxi drivers and tour bus operators.

Some twenty trucks also moved in to cut access to the country's largest oil refinery.

Protesting drivers are demanding the government ease fuel taxes. Truckers unions were scheduled to meet Monday with Belgian Transport Minister Isabelle Durant to discuss their demands, but Finance Minister Didier Reynders said Sunday the government would not lower fuel taxes.

"The blockade will continue ... it depends on the minister," said Serge Adriaens, president of the UPTR drivers union.

The Belgian action follows a week of disruption in France when truck drivers and farmers choked supplies to gas stations with a blockade of refineries. That action ended at the weekend after the French government agreed on tax concessions.

Drivers and farmers in Britain have started similar protests as discontent has spread over rising oil prices compounded by gasoline taxes of up to 80 percent imposed by European governments. After international appeals the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed Sunday to increase production in an effort to lower prices.

Truck drivers say they can no longer compete with the diesel prices being so high, and fear that if no action is taken soon, many will go out of business.

Morning rush-hour traffic was brought to a standstill in Brussels as several entry points to the city center were clogged. They have warned that they will step up their protests if no government action is taken to offer them relief from the high fuel prices.

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