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French PM to announce suspension of fuel tax hikes - government sources

The suspension will be accompanied by other measures aimed at calming two weeks of nationwide demonstrations by the protesters, the sources said.

FILE: Protesters demonstrate on the Faugbourg Saint-Honore street in Paris on 17 November 2018, during a nationwide popular initiated day of protest called 'yellow vest' (Gilets Jaunes in French) movement to protest against high fuel prices which has mushroomed into a widespread protest against stagnant spending power under French President. Picture: AFP

PARIS - French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is to announce on Tuesday a suspension of fuel tax increases planned for 1 January in a move to end violent "yellow vest" protests against the measure, government sources said Tuesday.

The suspension will be accompanied by other measures aimed at calming two weeks of nationwide demonstrations by the protesters, the sources said.

The demonstrations, which degenerated into street clashes and vandalism in Paris over the weekend, erupted last month over the fuel taxes which are financing France's anti-pollution efforts.

Originally spurred by the soaring cost of fuel this year, they quickly ballooned into a wider revolt over President Emmanuel Macron, accused of pursuing policies which hit low-income households particularly hard.

Halting the fuel tax increase was one of the main demands listed by "yellow vest" leaders, alongside a higher minimum wage and the return of a wealth tax on high-earners abolished last year.

Macron made the decision to suspend the 2019 fuel tax hikes late Monday, the sources said, after his government spent the day meeting with leaders from all of France's political parties.

Many were pressing the president to assuage the anger after the running urban battles seen in the capital on Saturday, when dozens of cars were burned and shops attacked and looted.

Philippe will announce the fuel tax suspension later Tuesday after meeting with lawmakers in his Republic on the Move party.

But the prime minister's office confirmed that Philippe would not meet with a delegation of the "yellow vests" for "security reasons", after several said they had received threats by protesters contesting their claim to represent the grassroots movement.

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