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French taxi drivers strike against government reforms, causing traffic jams, travel headaches

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PARIS - Taxi drivers across France clogged traffic, slowed access to airports and forced would-be passengers to find alternate transport as they held a strike Thursday over government deregulation proposals they fear will cut into their business.

Thousands of protesting taxi drivers lined up in single file on roadsides across the country, refused fares or travelled highways at a crawl, in what is being called "Operation Escargot."

At one point in the late morning, a trip into Paris that would normally take 20 minutes was listed on digital traffic signs at more than two hours.

Taxi associations oppose government proposals to allow private companies to transport the sick to medical appointments and allow for new chauffeur businesses.

At Paris' Orly airport, with riot police on hand, scores of taxi drivers prevented access to the drop-off point at the West terminal, forcing air travellers to walk further to get inside.

French government officials were negotiating with drivers' associations on Thursday, hoping to put an end to the strike.

An official close to the French president, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the meeting, said the government was confident it could reach a resolution, but stood firm on some measure of deregulation.

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