French Fishermen Hurl Flares at Riot Police in Paris Clash Over Rising Fuel Costs

Fishermen clashed with riot police in Paris Wednesday amid mounting protests over rising fuel costs that have disrupted operations at ports and oil terminals along the French coast.

Fishermen tossed flares hitting two officers and police responded with tear gas during the brief clashes near the Agriculture Ministry, an Associated Press photographer reported from the scene.

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Police said that four police officers were injured in the melee. The extent of their injuries was unclear.

Scores of riot police surrounded the ministry, where long-awaited talks opened Wednesday between fishing industry unions and Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier.

The talks were suspended midmorning to be resumed later in the day. Fishermen were asking that oil executives be summoned, the ministry said.

Fishermen have blockaded ports and oil depots around France for more than a week, causing fuel shortages in some towns.

They are demanding more state aid to cope with diesel costs that have nearly doubled since November. Fishermen say the rising prices threaten their livelihoods.

The French government already subsidizes fuel for commercial fishermen, and the fishermen want the state to offer more.

The government promised a $480 million aid package following port blockages in November.

Fuel prices have continued to mount and workers say the aid package isn't enough. President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged Tuesday to review the aid plan.

At Wednesday's meetings, the fishing unions asked the government to cap diesel prices at 35 to 40 euro cents a liter (55-62 US cents), about half the current subsidized price.

In port-related unrest Tuesday, dock workers in Marseille hurled chairs and bottles at riot police firing tear gas during protests over planned port privatizations. One police officer suffered head injuries and a police car was set ablaze.