Riot police break French port strike

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Riot police broke up a strike by seamen at France's biggest port on Thursday to clear a blockade by their vessels that had disrupted shipping there for two days.

About 700 officers swooped on the port of Marseille after a judge ordered the strike to be broken up, police official Gilles Leclair said. He said the operation took place peacefully.

A representative for the CGT union, Frederic Alpozzo, said however that police had used batons and gas to cow the protestors.

Police arrested 15 strikers who were later released, an official said.

"It was a difficult but necessary decision" to break up the strike, said Thierry Mariani, the junior minister for transport.

A strike by crews of the Mediterranean shipping firm SNCM to protest cuts in voyages between nearby Nice and the island of Corsica had been rumbling on since January and had blocked access to the Marseille port since Tuesday.

Some disruption continued Thursday since dock workers launched a strike in support of the arrested seafarers.

Alpozzo warned that without guarantees from the government, the sea crews' strike would continue.

© 2011 AFP

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