Sporadic Clashes, 250 Arrests during Bush Summit with EU

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                [Protesters in Sweden mocked Bush and
                 dubbed him 'Toxic Texan. Read photo
                 caption below.]

Sporadic clashes, 250 arrests during Bush summit with EU 

GOTHENBURG, Sweden, June 14 (AFP) -
Police detained at least 250 people and clashed sporadically Thursday with scores of young stone-throwing protesters as US President George W. Bush met European Union leaders for a one-day summit here.

Around 12,000 demonstrators representing a variety of organizations marched through the center of this southern Swedish port city and met in a central square but there were no reports of serious incidents at that rally as tight security kept larger protests under control.

But youths who massed in a public park several hundred yards (meters) away from the main demonstration ripped up cobble-stones and metal street signs and at several times in the day began throwing objects at well-protected police forces surrounding the park.

Around 400 demonstrators gathered inside a nearby multi-storey school building and a police spokesman said most of them were suspected of planning actions to disrupt the larger peaceful protest and summit-related events.

Police arrested 244 of them who emerged from the building and several police officers were hurt when the protesters tried to break through a security cordon around it, Gothenburg Police Chief Haakan Jaldung said.

One protester was reported to have been injured.

Those arrested were charged with violent rioting and resisting police, he said. Some 100 others were released after being searched but several dozen remained inside the building and police said they were likely to be arrested.

"There was a violent conflict earlier today and we are anticipating more," a police officer who declined to be named told AFP.

Police estimated that a total of between 250 and 300 people were arrested in various protest-related incidents around Gothenburg Thursday.

Police said many of the arrests, involving people of various nationalities, concerned protesters who had massed inside the school building.

Late in the evening, dozens of police officers, many on horseback and some with dogs, were stationed outside the school and several large trucks and shipping containers were positioned in a makeshift barricade around the facility.

A line of riot police kept back a large crowd of protesters gathered behind the school, some brandishing banners saying "Stop privatisation" and "Resist, revolt, People not profit". One black flag featured the US president's face as a skull and crossbones.

Police threw up high metal barricades on the ground and patrolled from the sky with two helicopters as the formal US-EU summit ended and Bush prepared to meet his counterparts from EU member states at an informal dinner.

Earlier in the day, around 3,000 Iranian dissidents brandishing flags and placards gathered in the square in a busy commercial district and several dozen supporters of the Falungong spiritual movement rallied in a park nearby.

The city of Gothenburg put 19 local schools at the disposal of protest organizations to be used to provide free lodging for out-of-town demonstrators.

About 1,500 police officers were being deployed for the EU-US summit and a separate EU summit here Friday and Saturday, but Sweden has taken steps, including a town hall-style meeting Wednesday between Prime Minister Goeran Persson and protesters, to avoid violence during the demonstrations.

Swedish police have described the security operation in place for the Gothenburg meetings as one of the most ambitious in the country's history, comparable only to the measures undertaken during the 1992 European football championships.

Officials have been anxious though to avoid scenes of violent clashes between security forces and demonstrators like those that have occurred at several international gatherings in recent years and have been at pains to show they want to cooperate with the protesters.

Security and political officials have also met about once a week since the start of the Swedish EU presidency in January with leaders of protest organizations and several plan to march alongside the demonstrators not as infiltrators but as "friendly" observers, police said.

Police meanwhile announced that four Norwegian youths who broke into an apartment in Gothenburg were being expelled from Sweden after police seized face masks and other unspecified "material" the group planned to use during demonstrations.

The four were aged in their 20s, police said, giving no further details.

On Tuesday, five Danish nationals were arrested and material police said they planned to use in an attack during the summit was confiscated from them.

Larry Bohlen, right, from Washington, D.C. and fellow members of "Friends of the Earth" who are masked as lookalikes of President Bush at a protest in downtown Goteborg, Thursday, June 14, 2001. The environmentalists demand Bush to follow the agenda of the Kyoto protocol on climate protection. Bush sparred Thursday with European leaders over climate change, unwavering in his opposition to a global warming treaty. (AP Photo Michel Lipchitz)

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