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Emergency meeting follows protests

Romania's government has called an emergency meeting to discuss violent protests that show no sign of abating after demonstrators angry about austerity measures hurled stones and firebombs at police. At least 13 people were injured.

More than 1,000 protesters clashed with police, who used tear gas and flares to repel demonstrators who blocked a main road in Bucharest.

One man was briefly set ablaze during the chaos. Interior Minister Traian Igas called an emergency meeting to deal with the crisis.

The protests, in their fourth day, are the most serious since President Traian Basescu came to power in 2004.

They are the result of frustration against public wage cuts, slashed benefits, higher taxes, cronyism in state institutions and widespread corruption.

Protesters yelled "The Mafioso government stole everything we had!" and "Get out you miserable dog!" - a popular expression of contempt used to refer to Mr Basescu.

Protesters roamed through the centre of the capital, and Mayor Sorin Oprescu called on them to refrain from acts of violence. Antena 3 TV reported that shops in the vicinity of the protest were vandalised.

"We are here to protest, we cannot face it any more, we have no money to survive, our pensions are so small, the expenses are more than we can afford. It's no way to live," said a protester who would only identify himself as Sorin. Thirteen people needed medical treatment, said Bogdan Oprita, who heads emergency services in Bucharest.

Protests began on Thursday in support of a health official who resigned because he opposed government health care reforms. Mr Basescu withdrew the health care bill on Friday, but protests continued.

Anger has mainly been directed against the once-popular Romanian president. Mr Basescu, 60, vowed to be a hands-on president when he came to power in 2004. He regularly gave interviews in supermarkets, was filmed dancing with his wife in restaurants and enjoyed a reputation as a man of the people.


From Belfast Telegraph