France abandons petrol price hikes in response to violent protests

Paris riots continue despite fuel tax delay

French President Emmanuel Macron backed down another major step Wednesday in the face of nationwide protests against his government, with a spokeswoman for his office saying planned fuel tax increases will not be introduced in 2019. The former investment banker, who has pushed pro-business economic reforms to make France more globally competitive, is accused of being the "president of the rich" and of being estranged from the working classes.

It was Prime Minister Edouard Philippe who announced a six-month delay in the fuel tax increase that was to have begun in January.

The FNSEA farmers' union said it would fight to help French farmers earn a better income but would not officially be joining forces with the "yellow vests" - protesters wearing the high-visibility vests that French motorists are required to keep in their cars. He also announced a freeze in electricity and natural gas prices until May.

Pressure has been mounting on the government after protests degenerated into the worst street clashes in central Paris for decades.

Three weeks of demonstrations left four people dead and were a massive challenge to Macron.

Chalencon said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press that the grassroots movement, triggered by fuel tax hikes, has grown amid Macron's silence.

Mouraud told protesters to seize on Macron's weakness and demand other perks, such as a minimum wage hike.

Two groups blockading petrol depots in Brittany said they would stand down following the announcement of the measures, which will cost public coffers some two billion euros ($2.3 billion).

However, his policies have angered many French citizens who say he does not care about most of the people. "We must maintain the sympathy and support of 85% of the French", he said. "We want Macron and his entire government to resign". Macron's move was "on the right path but, in my opinion, it will not fundamentally change the movement", she said.

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"I am glad that my friend @EmmanuelMacron and the protesters in Paris have agreed with the conclusion I reached two years ago", Trump tweeted.

"The French want the whole baguette, not just the crumbs", he said.

Why have French rioters been battling police in Paris?

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner has urged "responsible" protesters not to descend on Paris but has nonetheless called in police reinforcements, bracing for more violence.

Paris Saint-Germain's home Ligue 1 football match against Montpellier on Saturday has already been called off, as has an electro music festival in the city centre.

The "yellow vests", meanwhile, have called for new protests this Saturday.

Mr Macron has been accused of "not listening" and being out of touch with the public. On Tuesday night, the young leader was booed and jeered as he traveled to a regional government headquarters that was torched by protesters last weekend.

According to French journalist Agnès C. Poirier, both far-right leader Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the left-wing group France Unbowed, have tried to link themselves to the Yellow Vest movement-but their attempts have been rebuffed.

The rising cost of gasoline and diesel fuel sparked protests that have since evolved into broader demonstrations against Macron's government, exposing tensions between the metropolitan elite and rural poor.

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