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Thousands riot over fuel prices

Thousands of Indonesians protesting at plans to push up fuel prices by more than 30% have clashed with riot police.

Rallies were held under tight security in big cities all over the country as parliament debated the need for a rise.

Some MPs said the government had no choice but to cut budget-busting fuel subsidies, which have for years enabled motorists to fill up for roughly £1.20 per gallon. Others argued raising prices could more than double inflation to 7%.

With global oil prices surging, most Indonesians realise there is little choice. But that has not stopped thousands in a nation of 240 million, many of whom live in abject poverty, from taking to the streets every day for the last week.

If a price increase is approved, it will go into effect on Sunday.

Security was especially tight in Jakarta, where 20,000 soldiers and police were deployed to secure key locations, including the presidential palace.

"We reject the fuel hike plan," Akhmad Suhaimi, a protest leader, told cheering demonstrators gathered in front of the palace. He said it will push up the cost of everything from food and transportation to electricity.

"It's the poor that are going to suffer most."

Most protests were peaceful, but in Makassar, the main city on Sulawesi island, thousands blocked the main street and pelted police with rocks. Crowds were eventually dispersed with tear gas and water cannons.

The price of crude oil has jumped from 75 dollars a barrel in October to nearly 110 dollars, in part due to growing concern a military strike by Israel or the US against Iran's nuclear facilities would disrupt global crude supplies.

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