French protest day begins with violence
A school was burned down and protesting students again confronted police as another day of nationwide strikes and protests against French President Nicolas Sarkozy's pension reform got under way, DPA reported.
Police suspect arson as the cause of the fire that reduced a middle school in the city of Le Mans to cinders overnight, France Info radio reported. The blaze followed a demonstration by students during which the gates to the school were blocked.
In addition, students at a secondary school in Nanterre, near Paris, again clashed with police outside the school. The establishment had been the site of violent confrontations on Monday, during which a number of cars were set on fire.
The interior ministry said 290 demonstrators were arrested Monday after numerous protest demonstrations turned violent.
In Paris, several hundred students blocked access to the Place de la Republique, a busy traffic hub near the centre of the capital.
Fears were also growing Tuesday of fuel shortages. Some 2,500 service stations across the country have run out of petrol as a strike by workers at France's 12 oil refineries went into a seventh day.
The strike of railway workers also went into its seventh day Tuesday. The state-run railway network SNCF said about one-half of all scheduled trains would not be operating.
The French civil aviation authority DGAC said that 50 per cent of all flights originating at Paris's Orly Airport would be scrubbed Tuesday, with 30 per cent cancellations at other French airports.
The pension reform will gradually raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. It has been approved in the National Assembly and is set to be voted on in the Senate later this week.