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Saturday, 24 August, 2002, 21:39 GMT 22:39 UK
Police clash with summit protesters
Protester confronts a policeman
Students and a local protest group were involved
Police in Johannesburg have fired stun grenades at a crowd protesting ahead of the world development summit which opens in the South African city on Monday.

About 700 activists had gathered in front of the University of the Witwatersrand carrying candles and banners.


They can control a few hundred... This is just a symbolic march, but watch what happens when the masses come

Dale McKinley, protest spokesman

They were confronted by about 50 officers in riot gear who fired stun grenades to disperse them.

At least one person was slightly injured and there was one arrest, reports say.

Police said the demonstration was illegal as the organisers had not applied for permission.

The BBC's Alastair Leithead, in Johannesburg, says the incident is an indication of how seriously police are taking the threat of protests.

"They can control a few hundred. This is just a symbolic march, but watch what happens when the masses come," protest spokesman Dale McKinley warned.

Earlier on Saturday, Greenpeace activists scaled the wall of a building at the Koeberg nuclear plant, 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Cape Town. Twelve people were arrested and later released. They are to appear in court on Monday.

Police also arrested South African land rights activists during a demonstration in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

The World Summit on Sustainable Development is expected to draw 40,000 delegates and 100 world leaders.

It is meant to find ways to halve poverty and hunger by 2015 and to reduce damage to the environment.

Talks begin

Officials in Johannesburg held preparatory talks behind closed doors on Saturday in an attempt to resolve disagreements which could derail the summit.

One major disagreement is over objectives for poverty relief. The European Union supports the objectives but the United States refuses to endorse them.

Developing countries are also resisting US efforts to link aid to more stable and democratic government.

South African policeman searches a driver at a roadblock in Johannesburg
Security has been tightened ahead of the summit

Another source of conflict is subsidies paid to farmers in the developed world.

The Americans and the Europeans have rejected calls by developing nations to reduce the subsidies, saying it would ruin their agriculture.

South African President Thabo Mbeki has called on world leaders to come up with practical ideas.

He was speaking at a pop concert in Johannesburg on Friday, intended to inaugurate a parallel gathering of non-governmental environmental groups.

Denouncing failures in fighting poverty and disease since the first Earth Summit in Brazil 10 years ago, he said action rather than words was needed to bring hope to the poor of the world.

Security has been tightened to protect visitors from Johannesburg's notorious crime and violence, as well as protests by anti-globalisation activists.

Differences

However, BBC News Online's environment correspondent in Johannesburg, Alex Kirby, says the conference is already beset by low expectations and warnings that it will be little more than a talking shop.

US President George W Bush has already decided not to attend.

According to the French news agency AFP, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has said he will wait to see what comes out of this weekend's preparatory talks before deciding whether to attend.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Hilary Andersson in Johannesburg
"They think the summit represents the interests of big business"

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See also:

25 Aug 02 | Politics
23 Aug 02 | Science/Nature
22 Aug 02 | Africa
06 Aug 02 | Africa
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