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French Police Break Oil Blockades; Votes Thrown Out in Afghan Election

France protests

Protesters run away from French riot police during clashes in Lyon. Photo by Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty Images.

French riot police forced union workers away from blocked fuel depots in western France on Wednesday as strikes against government plans to increase the age for retirement reached its seventh day.

French workers also blocked access to airports in Paris and around the country and youths smashed store windows amid clouds of tear gas outside the capital.

President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed that his conservative party would pass the reform in a Senate vote expected Thursday.

The BBC reports that in the center of Paris, hundreds of students gathered outside the Senate, chanting, “Resistance.” Hugh Schofield reports:

“A kind of delirium has set in, propelling teenagers onto the streets in a re-enactment of an imagined revolution.”

A report from ITN:

The Guardian is live blogging the protests here with several videos of the scenes.

Jim Lehrer spoke to GlobalPost correspondent Mildrade Cherfils on Tuesday evening about the ongoing protests:

“[B]oth sides have a lot of face to save, quite frankly. The president has said repeatedly and his ministers and everyone who is backing him have repeatedly said this has to happen. And I think, fundamentally, people understand that it does have to happen, but the unions have to — they have to fight. They have to fight the good fight, if you will.”

Across the English Channel, the British government is outlining the largest public spending cuts since World War II. Up to 500,000 public employee jobs are likely to be lost.

NewsHour Foreign Affairs Editor Mike Mosettig writes in Wednesday’s Morning Line:

“Some of the 83 billion pounds in cuts already have been announced or telegraphed, and they whack at programs popular there or that would be considered nearly untouchable here, such as an 8-percent slice out of defense over four years announced Tuesday. Others would include ending child payments to middle and upper income earners and in effect raising the costs to parents or students for what is now largely subsidized college tuition. Some government agencies and programs, such as support for the arts, could be facing cuts as big as 25 percent. But one thing the Conservatives promised not to touch was the popular National Health Service, the government run medical care program established by Britain’s first post-war socialist government.”

1.3 Million Votes Disqualified in Afghanistan

Afghanistan has released full preliminary results from last month’s parliamentary election, throwing out more than 20 percent of ballots because of fraud, reports the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports, “Talks to end the war in Afghanistan involve extensive, face-to-face discussions with Taliban commanders from the highest levels of the group’s leadership, who are secretly leaving their sanctuaries in Pakistan with the help of NATO troops.”

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