Protesters arrested at U.S. embassy in Slovenia

16 June 2001


LJUBLJANA, June 16 (Reuters) - Some 500 anti-globalization protesters staged a peaceful demonstration in the Slovenian capital on Saturday as U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir met in a nearby castle.

Large numbers of riot police prevented the protesters, most of them Slovenians, from marching on the historic city centre. Police helicopters circled overhead.

Earlier, police arrested 22 Greenpeace activists during a 20-minute protest outside the U.S. embassy in Ljubljana.

A Reuters reporter saw two activists led away by police after they scaled the embassy fence and tried to replace the U.S. flag with a banner reading "Stop Star Wars," a reference to U.S. plans to deploy a missile defence shield.

The remaining protesters, wearing the dinstinctive white overalls of the environmental protection organisation, were arrested on the street soon afterwards.

The Slovenian Interior Ministry said the police had detained 12 Austrians, six Slovaks, two Britons, a Czech and a Spaniard. They were expected to be released later on Saturday.

The incident passed off peacefully but a strong force of police in riot gear took up position outside the embassy after the 20-minute protest.

Slovenia has mounted its largest-ever security operation for the Bush-Putin meeting, at which U.S. missile defence plans and Washington's rejection of the Kyoto treaty on global warming were set to be among the major issues.

The two leaders met outside Ljubljana at a 16th century hilltop castle in Brdo pri Kranju. They were scheduled to hold a joint news conference after their talks.

Protests continue to dog Bush's European tour

Slovenian riot police arrest a Greenpeace activist who chained himself to the front of the U.S. Embassy in the Slovenian capital Ljubljana Saturday. (AP/Hrvoje Knez) (CP)

LJUBLJANA (AP) - Slovenian police arrested more than 20 people Saturday after a scuffle at the U.S. Embassy and beat Italian activists trying to enter the Balkan country to join protests during the meeting of the U.S. and Russian presidents.

Later, riot police faced off against nearly 1,000 anti-globalization protesters who had marched to the Russian Embassy on Saturday afternoon. Police brought in armoured cars and a water cannon but a woman planted herself in front of the convoy.

Protests by groups opposed to U.S. and Russian policies took place as President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in a 16th-century manor outside Brdo Pri Kranju, about 30 kilometres north of the Slovenian capital.

Shortly before the two presidents arrived separately at Ljubljana's airport, 22 members of the environmental group Greenpeace were arrested after five of them jumped the fence at the U.S. Embassy.

Two of the protesters chained themselves to the stairs leading into the embassy building. Another tried to climb the flagpole and remove the U.S. flag before he was apprehended and handcuffed by embassy guards wearing civilian clothes.

Outside the compound, the other activists chained themselves together and held up a banner reading: Stop Star Wars.

Slovenian riot police rushed to the scene, cut the chains and took the protesters into custody, police spokesman Miran Koren said.

Twelve were from Austria, six from Slovakia, two from Britain and the others from the Czech Republic and Spain, Koren said.

Before the protest, a Greenpeace activist, Mike Townsley, said his group was angry over "the collapse of the weapons-control treaties," principally the 1972 Anti-ballistic Missile treaty which Bush has branded a relic of the Cold War.

Slovenian authorities have stepped up security inside the country and along the borders to prevent extremists from entering the country to cause trouble during the one-day meeting.

On Saturday, Slovene authorities stopped a bus carrying about 40 members of Italian-based anti-globalization group, Ya Basta, after it crossed the Italian side of the border.

Koren, the police spokesman, said Slovene border guards ordered the bus to return to Italy. When several of the activists tried to leave the bus to protest the order, guards pounded them with nightsticks to force them back inside, according to a filmed report broadcast by Slovene television.

"We just wanted to go to Ljubljana peacefully," one of the Italians shouted at police.

"If that is not possible, give us a written reason."

Slovene television did not report his name.

Koren said the bus remained in the 100-metre-wide "no man's land" between the Italian and Slovene border control stations, blocking traffic.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International collected signatures in downtown Ljubljana for petitions against capital punishment in the United States and Russia.

The organization had planned to send its petitions by fax to Brdo castle where the U.S. and Russian leaders were meeting. However, after sending 30 copies, someone disconnected the line, Amnesty International members said.

Bush's five-country tour of Europe, which began Tuesday in Spain, has been dogged by protests - mostly against his missile-defence plan and his rejection of the 1997 international agreement to curb greenhouse-gas emissions.

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