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Turkey

Turkey set for general strike, following mass rally for Erdogan

A number of trade unions have called a one-day general strike as the unrest in Turkey continues. Anti-government protesters appeared undeterred despite a massive show of support for the prime minister.

Two of Turkey's trade union federations called on their members to walk off the job nationwide this Monday to support the protests against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his government, which began more than two weeks ago.

Doctors, lawyers and civil servants were among those taking part in the work stoppage.

Sporadic clashes between anti-government protesters and police were reported in a number of districts of Istanbul into the early hours of Monday.

On Sunday, riot police fired tear gas and used water cannon to repel thousands of demonstrators trying to re-enter Taksim Square and the adjoining Gezi Park, which have been at the heart of the protests. It had taken police on Saturday evening several hours to clear the park.

Tensions deepen in Turkey

Massive show of support for Erdogan

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Erdogan used a speech at a rally of tens of thousands of his supporters at a separate location in Istanbul, to defend his decision to order police to clear Taksim Square by force. He accused "terrorists" of orchestrating the protests against him, which he said amounted to "nothing more than the minority's attempt to dominate the majority ... We could not have allowed this and we will not allow it."

He also rejected the protesters' complaints about his “authoritarian” style of government.

"They say 'you are too tough', they say 'dictator'. What kind of a dictator is this who met the Gezi Park occupiers and honest environmentalists? Is there such a dictator?" Erdogan said, referring to a meeting he held with representatives of the protesters a couple of days ago.

Sunday's pro-government rally reflected the fact that depite the unrest, Erdogan, whose government was re-elected with more than 50 percent of the vote just two years ago, continues to enjoy the support of much of the population.

Protesters remain determined

On the other hand, there was no sign that his detractors were prepared to back down.

"We will win Taksim Square again and we will win Taksim Gezi Park again," Alican Elagoz, a spokesman for one of the protest groups told the Associated Press.

The unrest began after police moved in to forcibly break up a peaceful sit-in to protest against plans to redevelop Gezi Park on May 31. This led protesters to widen their focus from the development plan to general discontent with Erdogan's government and his style of leadership – and demonstrations quickly spread to dozens of cities across the country.

At least four people have been killed and around 5,000 people injured since the protests began, according to the Turkish Medical Association.

Erdogan and his government have faced repeated criticism from their allies, including Germany, over the use of police force against the demonstrators.

"The Turkish government is sending the completely wrong signal with this unfortunate behavior," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told ZDF public television on Sunday.

pfd/lw (AP, Reuters)

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