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BRUSSELS, Belgium, — It appears the hard-fought battles in Europe last summer over fuel were in vain, after the European Union (EU) has decided to phase out the tax breaks.

Several European countries had agreed to protesters demands to reduce or throw-out taxes on diesel fuel.

EU finance ministers are phasing out the tax breaks which had been offered in some countries. France, Italy and the Netherlands had granted waivers on fuel taxes after the protests. Germany, for its part, refused, arguing that competition in the trucking industry in Europe would be tossed off balance by the breaks.

The breaks will be eliminated completely by 2002.

Europe, where diesel is also used widely in cars, has some of the highest fuel prices and taxes in the world.

The protests began in France in early September and spread throughout the continent. The French protests included farmers and cab drivers and won widespread public support.

Protests and fuel-depot blockades in Britain shut down the economy, and led to comparisons with the hard times of the Second World War.

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