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Protests

Indian PM calls for calm as rape protests continue

Indian authorities have halted movement in the capital, New Delhi, closing roads and railway stations in an attempt to restore law and order after police clashed with protesters angered by the gang rape of a young woman.

In a rare televised address on Monday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed for calm, vowing to protect women and punish those responsible for raping the 23-year-old student in the capital, New Delhi.

During a weekend of violent protests denouncing the lack of action by authorities following the attack, police were forced to use batons, teargas and water cannons against demonstrators across the capital.

Protests spread to other cities across India, but remained peaceful.

Singh said while he understood the public outrage over the "monstrous crime," he added "violence will serve no purpose."

"There is genuine and justified anger and anguish at this ghastly incident," Singh said in his address.

"I feel deeply sad at the turn of events leading to clashes between protesters and police forces. I assure you that we will make all possible efforts to ensure security and safety to all women in this country."

"We will ensure justice is delivered," he added.

The victim of the December 16 attack, who was beaten, raped for almost an hour and thrown from a moving bus is still in a critical condition on respiratory support, doctors said.

Official figures show the number of reported rapes occurring in New Delhi rose 17 percent to 661 this year.

The New Delhi police control room has reported more than 100 people injured during the protests, including 60 policemen.

Government buildings closed

Police were forced to cordon off government buildings as large numbers of people gathered to protest.

"No one will be allowed to march towards the parliament or the president's palace," said New Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat.

The situation has been made worse with extra security personnel already planned for the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to New Delhi on Monday.

There was a last-minute change of the venue of the meeting between the two leaders, a foreign ministry official said.

jlw/pfd (Reuters, dpa, dapd, AFP)