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Thousands protest against construction of new international airport in west of France

August 05, 2013, 4:22 UTC+3

According to the organisers, taking part in the rally were 25 thousand people, the police, however, counted 8 - 9 thousand activists

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PARIS, August 5 (Itar-Tass) - A mass protest action against the construction of a new international airport was held on Sunday in the vicinity of Notre-Dame-des-Landes, 30 km from Nantes in western France. According to the organisers, taking part in the rally were 25 thousand people, the police, however, counted 8 - 9 thousand activists.

Opponents of the construction of the airport began to arrive at Notre-Dame-des-Landes on Saturday. In order to draw the government’s attention, they decided to literally “occupy the sky” in the planned construction area, flying over a thousand kites. The biggest of them carried protest slogans such as “free people - free sky.”

Numerous speeches of the activists, open discussions, a free concert with the participation of musicians who are not indifferent to the fate of the area were simultaneously organised. “We came here, like everyone else, for the preservation of the picturesque rural landscape, against building any airports here,” some of the speakers stressed.

The project for the creation of a new international airport in this part of the country has been developed for many years. In recent years, the work in this sphere has intensified, the site was selected and the timeframe determined. The construction was supposed to start at Notre-Dame-De-Land this year, and the facility was to be commissioned by 2017. Last autumn, however, these planes of the authorities met with fierce resistance. The protesters, including environmentalists, farmers and local residents started to set a tent camp in the area of the future construction site, and eventually it came to clashes with the gendarmerie.

Most of the criticism was directed then against the country’s Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault who from 1989 to May 2012 held the post of mayor of Nantes. He has always been one of the main supporters of the project. The prime minister has agreed to delay for six months the start of the construction and gave instructions to set up a “Commission for Dialogue” so that the protesters could reach a compromise with the developer - the Vinci company. The authorities, however, have so far been refusing to reconsider the airport construction plans.

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