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France to suspend fuel tax hike after protests

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Paris, Dec 4: The French government will suspend its plan to introduce a fuel tax hike which has led to violent protests, the media reported on Tuesday.

The tax on petrol and diesel, due to increase next month in a move towards cleaner fuels, sparked protests that quickly escalated to reflect a range of grievances including the marginalization of rural areas, high living costs and general anger at President Emmanuel Macron’s economic policies.

The demonstrations hit major French cities causing damage for the past three weekends and claimed three lives, the BBC reported citing the French media.

Earlier, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe sought a compromise with the protesters, but they called off talks citing death threats from extremists in their ranks.

He was due to meet Cabinet ministers to agree to a response to rioting, looting and destruction in Paris amid the “gilets jaunes” (yellow vests) movement.

The movement is called “yellow vests” because the protesters took to the streets wearing the high-visibility yellow clothing that is required to be carried in every vehicle by French law.

The protest movement has broadened its demands to include Macron’s resignation and the dissolution of the French Parliament, the Guardian reported.

Macron repeatedly vowed not to give in to street rule but has been forced to reconsider after the worst violence in Paris in half a century. He has accused his political opponents of hijacking the movement in order to block the reforms.

Nearly 300,000 people took part in the first countrywide demonstration. There were more than 106,000 a week later and 136,000 people last Saturday.

Protests continued on Monday. About 50 “yellow vests” blocked access to a major fuel depot in the port of Fos-sur-Mer, near Marseille, and petrol stations across the country have run out of fuel.

Students in about 100 secondary schools across the country held demonstrations against educational and exam reforms.

Macron has postponed a two-day visit to Serbia this week to deal with the crisis.

IANS

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Indian Coast Guard seizes 5 Sri Lankan fishing boats with 25 crewmen

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Chennai, Feb 19 The Indian Coast Guard on Tuesday said it had seized five Sri Lankan fishing boats which had a total of 25 crewmen.

In a statement issued here, it said the Sri Lankan fishing boats were fishing illegally in the Indian waters when they were detected, about 90 km off Nagapattinam.

A total of 4,200 kgs of tuna fish illegally caught from the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone was seized from them.

All the apprehended boats were brought to Karaikal harbour for joint investigation by relevant security agencies, the Coast Guard said.

In light of the recent terror attack in Jammu and Kashmit, maritime surveillance was heightened to foil any anti-national elements gaining access into Indian coastal areas and engaging in activities detrimental to national interests, the statement said.

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Pakistan demands safety for its High Commission staff in India

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Islamabad, Feb 19 Pakistan on Tuesday lodged “a strong protest” against the way protesters were allowed to reach the main gate of the Pakistan House in New Delhi and abusive calls were being made on the Pakistan High Commission helpline.

The Special Secretary (Asia Pacific) in the Foreign Office, Imtiaz Ahmad, summoned the Acting Indian High Commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia to lodge the protest.

Ahmad said that during an anti-Pakistan demonstration on Monday, protestors were allowed to reach and jolt the gate of the Pakistan House — the residence of the High Commissioner — despite the presence of Indian security officials.

“It was underscored that despite a strong protest to the Indian government, acts of harassment targeting the Pakistan High Commission, Pakistan House and officials of the High Commission and their families continued, including abusive calls to the High Commission helpline.”

Ahmad demanded a comprehensive, immediate investigation of “this serious breach of security” and foolproof measures for the safety and security of the Pakistan House, High Commission officials and their families in New Delhi so that such incidents do not recur.

Anti-Pakistan sentiments are sweeping India after a suicide bombing in Jammu and Kashmir that killed 40 CRPF troopers was claimed by the Pakistan-backed Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) group.

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US Senator Sanders launches second presidential bid

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Washington, Feb 19 : US Senator Bernie Sanders announced on Tuesday og again running for President in 2020 and vowed to finish what he started in his last race for the White House.

Sanders lost the Democratic primaries in 2016 to Hillary Clinton. The former first lady lost the election to Donald Trump despite winning three million more votes than Trump.

The self-styled socialist, who represents Vermont state as an independent, is set to compete in the Democratic Party primaries. Sanders said he would run a grassroots campaign that re-addresses some of the major issues he focused on in his unsuccessful 2016 bid, such as Medicare-For-All, raising the minimum wage and tackling climate change and wealth inequality.

“We began the political revolution in the 2016 campaign and now it’s time to move that revolution forward,” Sanders told Vermont Public Radio in an interview.

Sanders is one of the most outspoken critic of President Trump, whom he has repeatedly called a “pathological liar” and a “racist”, the New York Times reported.

“Make no mistake about it, the powerful special interests in this country have unbelievable power and they want to maintain the status quo,” said the 77-year-old senator, credited with revitalising the often-neglected left wing of the Democratic Party.

“They have unlimited amounts of money to spend on campaigns and lobbying and have huge influence over the media and political parties. The only way we will win this election is with a grassroots movement the likes of which has never been seen in American history. They may have the money and the power; we have the people,” he said.

In his second presidential campaign, Sanders may face stiff competition in a crowded primary race populated by colleagues and allies, including US Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Senators Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar.

Other Democrats, like Julián Castro, the former Mayor of San Antonio (Texas) and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Mayor of South Bend (Indiana) Pete Buttigieg or US Representative John Delaney have also declared their candidature for the White House.

Three years ago, Sanders was viewed as a protest candidate from the political fringe. But today, his policy agenda — a suite of proposals to expand healthcare, broaden the social safety net and make higher education free — has been embraced by many of the Democratic party’s leading figures.

Sanders did not announce from where he would begin his campaign, nor any staffing decisions for new political operation.

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