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France: Gov’t Yields on Fuel Price Hikes following Weeks of Protest

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Local Editor

After weeks-long pressure by the so-called “yellow vests” over rising living costs in France, the government scrapped Wednesday all planned fuel tax hikes for 2019 and appealed for calm.

An increase scheduled for January 1, was "scrapped for the year 2019" in its entirety, Environment Minister Francois de Rugy announced on BFM TV, in an about-turn for the government.

Meanwhile, the French presidency warned of possible violence during a new round of protests planned for Saturday in Paris and elsewhere in the country.

"We have reasons to fear major violence," a source in the Presidential Elysee Palace told AFP amid calls for fresh mobilization of the "yellow vests" movement already linked to four deaths and hundreds of injuries in often violent demonstrations.

Protests kicked off on November 17 against rising fuel taxes, but have ballooned into a broad challenge to French President Emmanuel Macron's perceived pro-business agenda and complaints that he is out of touch with the struggles of ordinary people.

Demonstrators have blocked roads nationwide, playing havoc with traffic in the busy run-up to Christmas.

Last Saturday, rioters ran amok in the capital, torching some 200 cars, smashing shop windows, and vandalizing the Arc de Triomphe, an iconic national monument.

The French president and government appealed for calm Wednesday, and signaled they were ready to make further concessions to avoid more violence.

"The moment that we are living through is not about political opposition, it's about the republic," government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said after a cabinet meeting where he said Macron urged decision-makers to issue "a clear and explicit call to calm."

Relatively, PM Edouard Philippe told parliament: "What is at stake is the security of French people and our institutions. I'm calling for responsibility."

However far-right leader Marine Le Pen and hard-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon have been vocal in backing the demonstrators' demands.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team