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Tuesday, 1 January, 2002, 03:05 GMT
Argentina braces for fresh protests
Riot police outside Argentina's supreme court
Thousands of police have had their leave cancelled
Stringent security measures have been imposed by the Argentine authorities, fearful of a fresh outbreak of protests as a new caretaker president is appointed - the third in less than two weeks.


I am begging people not to demonstrate, so we can have a chance to solve this crisis

Eduardo Camano, stand-in president
Thousands of police have had their leave cancelled as extra guards were drafted in to protect the government palace and congress buildings, the scenes of violent demonstrations at the weekend.

The country's legislative body is due to gather for an emergency session to name a new leader, following the resignation of interim President Adolfo Rodriguez Saa after only seven days in office.

Congressional leader Eduardo Camano has temporarily taken the reins from Mr Saa, who said he did not have the support of colleagues in his own Peronist party to take on Argentina's worsening economic crisis.

The successor is widely expected to be Eduardo Duhalde, a former vice-president and current senator of Buenos Aires province, who looks likely to govern until at least the end of 2003.

Argentina's political parties agreed to postpone the March presidential elections to enable the interim leader to stay in the position for longer, in the hope of bringing some stability back to the troubled country.

Controversial choice

The BBC's Daniel Schweimler in Buenos Aires says that the nomination of Mr Duhalde, a well known figure, may well meet with hostility in the public at large.

Eduardo Duhalde
Mr Duhalde may face opposition
Our correspondent says he may be tainted by his close ties with former president Carlos Menem and other key Peronist Party figures, whom many blame for plunging Argentina into its current economic and social crisis.

These Argentines are anxious to see a clean break from the past, and are unlikely to be satisfied with such an obvious member of the old guard.

But Mr Camano, who was sworn in for his brief spell in office on Monday night, has urged people not to demonstrate on the streets before congress meets.

"I am begging people not to demonstrate, so we can have a chance to solve this crisis," he said.

"If they want to bang pots, I ask that they do it at home."

No support for reforms

Mr Rodriguez Saa announced his resignation in a dramatic late-night televised address on Sunday.

Demonstrators in Chapadmalal
The protesters have been drawn from all classes

Power should have passed automatically to Senate Chairman Ramos Puerta, but he too resigned minutes later on grounds of ill-health.

Mr Rodriguez Saa's resignation took effect immediately, although he had been due to hold office until elections in March.

"I did not have any other choice," he told stunned TV viewers.

He listed his achievements during his short time in office as suspending payments on the country's foreign debt and announcing new austerity measures.

Drummed out

His residence had been besieged by angry demonstrators who banged pots and pans in a scaled-down version of protests which brought down the last government and resurfaced in the capital at the weekend.

Argentina in crisis
Early in December, IMF refuses to disburse $1.3 billion aid
20 December: President de la Rua resigns after riots
23 December: Adolfo Rodriguez Saa sworn in
Fails to win support for economic reforms
30 December: Mr Rodriguez Saa resigns
But Mr Rodriguez Saa did manage to persuade the country's banks to stay open for extended hours on Monday, to allow customers to withdraw salaries and pensions.

The agreement was "a contribution to civil peace", he said, after weeks of turbulence which saw 27 people killed in riots and the resignation of Mr Rodriguez Saa's predecessor, Fernando de la Rua.

But a controversial 1,000-peso ($1,000) monthly limit on cash withdrawals remains in place.

Demonstrators have railed against the restriction and alleged corruption within Mr Rodriguez Saa's cabinet.

Many account-holders fear they will lose their savings if the currency is devalued or the government seizes money held in banks.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Daniel Schweimler
"Just a week after taking office"
See also:

01 Jan 02 | Business
Argentina faces grim economic future
30 Dec 01 | Americas
Argentine cabinet offers to quit
21 Dec 01 | Business
Bush backs IMF austerity measures
31 Dec 01 | Americas
Argentina's toughest job
01 Jan 02 | Media reports
Press lambasts Peronist 'infighting'
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