French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Tuesday vowed action against strike-induced fuel shortages threatening to paralyse the economy as workers and students rallied to defend their right to retire at 60.

The latest day of protests, the sixth since September, drew more than half a million people onto the streets, police said, fewer than on the last comparable day, with 480,000 nationwide in the morning and 67,000 later in Paris.

But the CGT, France's biggest union, estimated turnout in Paris at 330,000, which it said was equal to the October 12 march. Unions' estimates at recent demonstrations have habitually been several times higher than those of police. With more than 200 protests on Tuesday, all 12 French oil refineries shut down by strikes and truckers blocking roads, Mr. Sarkozy said the Cabinet would draw up a plan to stop France grinding to a standstill. Production at French oil refineries has been shut down since last week

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