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French fishermen reach deal over fuel prices

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PARIS (AP) — French fishermen on Thursday called an end to a nationwide wave of protests, including an hours-long traffic blockade of the Channel Tunnel, after the Agriculture Ministry promised to offset the costs of rising fuel prices.

Earlier Thursday, fishermen had lined up cars to form a picket line at the Channel Tunnel terminal at Coquelles, near the northern port city of Calais, leaving hundreds of tourist buses and other vehicles unable to board the trains that pass under the English Channel.

After a deal was signed at the Agriculture Ministry in Paris, fishing unions called for an end to the demonstrations that have left many French ports in gridlock for more than a week.

Agriculture Minister Jean Glavany, who met with a delegation of fishermen, pledged a series of financial measures to offset rising fuel prices.

"We're going to take measures to lighten the companies' taxes, which will permit companies to compensate for the ... rising price of fuel," Glavany told France-Info radio after the meeting.

More good news came from Finance Minister Laurent Fabius, who announced cuts on France's heavy fuel taxes as part of a sweeping tax reform.

Earlier Thursday, fishermen had occupied ports from the Mediterranean city of Marseille to Bayonne near the Spanish border to the Normandy city of Le Havre.

In the city of Perigueux in the southwest, truck drivers, farmers and taxis added their voices to the fuel protests, stopping traffic at the principal entrances to the city.