Cabbies vow to continue strike [update]

Taxi drivers vowed on Friday to continue their strike after a meeting with Yannis Ragousis, the socialist government’s transport minister, failed to break the deadlock.

Efthymios Lyberopoulos, the head of the Attica taxi drivers? union, said the minister was open to dialogue but fell short of making any specific commitments.

?As a result, taxi drivers will continue their strike,? Lyberopoulos said.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the transport ministry said the deregulation of the sector would be carried out as planned.

Friday’s fruitless meeting took place following an intervention by Prime Minister George Papandreou the previous day. The strike, now in its second week, has damaged Greece’s tourism image while causing division inside the ruling socialists.

Cabbies are protesting government plans to open up their sector to more competition. Ragousis announced a total liberalization of taxis just weeks after his predecessor, Dimitris Reppas, had announced a deregulation plan that would have placed a limit on the number of taxi licenses that would be issued.

Ragousis has since held fruitless talks with the cabbies, who have protested by closing access to roads, ports and airports.

Culture Minister Pavlos Geroulanos on Thursday warned against ?turning tourism into a battleground.? His comments came after about 2,000 taxi drivers demonstrated at the port of Piraeus, preventing coaches carrying cruise passengers from leaving for tours of Athens.

Some drivers also threw oil on the road in what they said was an attempt to ensure that they were not pursued by motorcycle-riding policemen.

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