Fuel protests continue in Sweden, Spain and Israel

STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Angry truckers and farmers in Sweden and Spain blocked transit to harbors, rail terminals and fuel depots to protest high fuel prices on Tuesday, while Spanish fishermen called off a protest that had blocked the entrance to the port of Barcelona for a day.

Protests were expected to intensify Tuesday in Spain, with demonstrations in 34 provinces of the country, including a tractor strike through Madrid, which could paralyze the Spanish capital.

Swedish truckers impeded road traffic to harbors and rail freight terminals, hampering ordinary freight from entering cruise ship companies Viking Line and Silja Line in Stockholm.

Passengers and urgent transport, such as medicine or food perishables, were allowed to board and depart the ships normally. Rail freight terminals were blocked in Malmoe, Sweden's third-biggest city, and in the capital, Stockholm.

The immediate threat of gas lines, hoarding and commuter delays receded as truckers withdrew from the oil harbors in Stockholm and Sweden's second-largest city and major port Goteborg on the west coast.

In Barcelona, Spanish news agency Efe reported that boat blockades were being lifted Tuesday morning after progress was made in government talks with fishermen protesting high fuel prices. Maritime traffic was expected to return to normal later in the day.

Some 20 fishing boats had dropped anchor just outside the mouth of Spain's second-busiest port before dawn Monday.

Meanwhile, in the province of Huelva in southern Spain, 300 protesting fishermen were blocking the entrance to the area's port on Tuesday.

On Monday, truckers parked their vehicles outside fuel distribution points in the central Spanish region of Castille y Leon. In the city of Salamanca, fuel-demonstrators clashed with police - injuring one protester. A union leader and a farmers' representative were detained as the police tried to break up the demonstration.

In Finland, the government on Tuesday announced a cut in road taxes for truckers after drivers starting on Sunday had sporadically blocked traffic on highways in southern and central Finland.

But Finnish truckers said a tax cut was not enough.

''It's a step in the right direction, but it's not enough. It's really peanuts,'' said Juha Norppa-Rahkola from the Finnish Trucking Association.

In Israel, truckers inched along highways leading to Tel Aviv Tuesday in a slowdown to protest an increase in fuel prices, but did not cause major traffic jams.

Police escorted the trucks on their routes into Tel Aviv, Israel's commercial center.

The truckers launched the slowdown to try to force the government to roll back a 13 percent rise in diesel fuel prices that went into effect Saturday in response to rising fuel prices worldwide.

Protests started in France, Britain and other European countries earlier this month as prices for gas and diesel fuel soared due to high world prices for oil and a strong U.S. dollar, the currency that world oil sales are priced in.


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