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Belgium feels bite of 24-hour strike

Belgians were going nowhere fast on Monday as a 24-hour national strike brought the country to a standstill. The stoppage by public and private sector workers is in protest against the new government's austerity measures to cut the national budget deficit. Rail passengers were among the first to feel the pinch as trains ground to a halt on Sunday night. SOUNDBITE: Al-Tuky Khan, rail traveller, saying (English): "I'm shocked because nobody is taking no responsibility for it. Plus, I am not from this country, this is my first visit to this country, and I don't know where to go." SOUNDBITE: Jean-Paul Debelle, passenger, saying (French): "I think it's a shame because we're asked to use public transport more and more. We're advised not to use our cars but in the end, once again, we're the hostages. It's a scandal." Many Belgians have been angered by changes that include unemployment benefit cuts and a crackdown on early retirement. Belgium's already announced a 1.3 billion euro spending freeze on top of planned savings of more than 11 billion euros. The strike coincides with a summit of European Union leaders to discuss budget rules for governments and ways to rekindle economic growth. Paul Chapman, Reuters

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