Sunday, February 15, 2009

AFP - Egypt police arrest 25 striking truckers

CAIRO (AFP) — Egyptian police arrested 25 truckers on Sunday as a strike by truck owners entered its third day, a police official said.

The truck owners had clashed with police who tried to disperse them in the Nile Delta province of Gharbiya, the official said.

Owners of articulated lorries, which the transport ministry says account for almost a third of commercial transport in Egypt, went on strike on Friday to protest against a law that would ban the vehicles by 2011.

Businessmen say the strike has pushed up the prices of cement and cooking gas.

The truck owners say the new law will put them out of a livelihood. "We will continue the strike until our demands our met," said Mohammed Abdel Moneim, a spokesman for one of the truckers' unions.

Medhat Stephanous, a manager with the Titan company which owns two cement factories in the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria and in Beni Sueif, said the strike has raised the price of cement.

"About half of the merchandise did not arrive to the market by last night, causing prices to rise from between 700 and 750 Egyptian pounds a tonne to 850 pounds (144 dollars) a tonne," he said.

Truck owners are expected to meet transport ministry officials on Monday to present their demands.

The ministry says there are 40,000 articulated vehicles in use in the Arab world's most populous country and they account for a disproportionate number of accidents.

Egypt's roads are among the most chaotic and dangerous in the world, with traffic laws widely flouted.

Road accidents kill about 6,000 people and cause 30,000 injuries each year, according to transport ministry figures.

A new highway code came into force in August with the aim of improving road safety.