France tells airlines to refuel abroad

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The French government insisted Sunday that there were no fuel shortages at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport despite telling airlines flying from the Paris hub to fill up before returning.

Officials warned on Saturday that the airport could run out of aviation fuel as early as Monday because of industrial action mainly against pension reform that has closed down 10 of France's 12 refineries and a number of fuel depots.

The pipeline to Charles de Gaulle was cut and the government has told car drivers not to panic as petrol stations around the country ran out of diesel and petrol.

But Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau told Europe 1 radio that there was no cause for concern despite ongoing strikes and protests that saw hundreds of thousands take to the streets for the latest day of action on Saturday.

"Roissy is perfectly supplied by the pipeline, which has aviation fuel in it. There's no problem at Roissy. We can supply it constantly, for an indefinite period," he said after supply resumed on Saturday afternoon.

The government has given oil companies permission to tap into their own emergency stocks, but has resisted calls to use government-controlled strategic reserves.

Bussereau said that planes were being told to fill up before heading back to France, with other airports around the country hit by the strikes.

"A plane flying to Berlin from Roissy will fill up, while normally it would have made the return journey without refuelling," he said.

Shortages at Nice airport, in the southeast, could be resolved by bringing fuel in from nearby Italy, Bussereau said, while shortages at Nantes, in the west, would be "resolved quickly," he said.

Civil aviation head Patrick Gandil said Saturday that Nantes was the first airport in the country to cancel flights due to shortages, although a Nantes airport official denied there had been any cancellations caused by fuel shortages.

Bussereau blamed petrol shortages at some service stations on panic buying, which saw sales of full tanks jump by 50 percent last week, he said.

© 2010 AFP

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