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14/08/01 . Unknown . Yahoo News . Millau, France
French protesters lift blockade on McDonald's restaurant
Anti-globalisation protesters have decided to end their blockade of a McDonald's fast food restaurant in southwest France upon the suggestion of radical French farmer leader José Bové.
Bové returned to Millau, Aveyron, where the protest has been taking place since Sunday, from Brussels where he held talks with EU trade commissioner Pascal Lamy.
Shortly before midnight (2200 GMT) union leaders told some 1,000 workers of their decision to lift their blockade on the restaurant which had been imposed in protest against US surcharges on French cheese imports
They called on the protesters to regather outside the McDonalds branch on Tuesday morning to pull out the tractors and other vehicles blocking the entrance to the restaurant.
Bové said he had been "in part listened to" by Lamy who would tackle the question of US sanctions at upcoming World Trade Organisation talks.
"We are in a state of war where, instead of bombing the army the adversary is shelling civilians," Bové told reporters in Brussels after his hour-long meeting here with Lamy.
Those US surcharges were imposed two years ago on French cheese imports in retaliation at the European Union's refusal to import American hormone-treated beef.
He added that the French government would also hold a meeting in Paris on Thursday to discuss the situation of roquefort cheese exporters who face a 100 percent tariff in the United States.
That measure, said Bové, is costing the 3,000 families who produce the world famous mould-laced cheese 15 million French francs (2.30 million euros, 2 million dollars) a year.
These family farms are being "held hostage" in a trade war not of their making, he said in Brussels, adding he had asked Lamy to urge the European Commission to enact measures to indemnify them.
The rally in Millau also marked the second anniversary of a demonstration here led by Bove which trashed the same McDonald's. Bové received a three-month jail sentence for the offence.
But this time protesters found the restaurant shut. Manager Marc Dehani, avoiding confrontation with angry farmers led by trade unionists and other activists, said earlier he would stay shut as long as the demonstration outside lasted.
Two busloads of police were on hand to protect the burger restaurant.
The protesters have also called on the French government to ban open-field genetically modified crop experiments.
Bove, who heads the radical Farmers' Confederation, and fellow activists announced plans to destroy some of the crops in question in the coming weeks. Green protesters took similar action elsewhere in France last week.
Police said the demonstrators who protested here numbered about 1,500. The demonstrators said they were twice that.