President Chirac urges lower gasoline prices

French President Jacques Chirac urged oil companies to cut gasoline prices, as the government was expected to announce aid for farmers who suffer from high oil prices.

Chirac urged his finance minister, Thierry Breton, to press oil companies to "strongly accentuate" price-cutting efforts and boost investment in renewable energy.

Oil companies announced gasoline price cuts in France last week after Breton threatened the industry with a new "special tax" if companies did not hand back more of their bumper profits to consumers through lower prices. Breton is to meet oil industry representatives Friday.

President Chirac was speaking at a cabinet meeting, and his comments were passed on to reporters by government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope.

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin also was expected to announce new initiatives to boost production of biofuels as well as financial aid for farmers hit by high gas prices, the AP reports.

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