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Saturday, 2 February, 2002, 19:04 GMT
Argentina court faces challenge
An Argentinean protester
Congressional deputies in Argentina have been considering ways of impeaching the supreme court in response to its handling of the country's banking crisis.

Argentine President Eduardo Duhalde on Saturday renewed his criticism of a supreme court ruling against limits on cash withdrawals from banks.

He suggested the decision was politically motivated and described the court as "totally discredited".

Officials said Mr Duhalde was in emergency cabinet meetings with aides on Saturday to discuss his next steps after announcing the suspension of his economic rescue plan.

A congressional legal adviser said the court had abused its authority to stage a political attack on the government and that there were sufficient grounds to impeach the entire bench. He said the process would begin on Monday.

Correspondents say the confrontation between the executive and judiciary branches also marks a troubling new phase in Argentina's deep economic and social crisis.

More anger

The court ruling came as the government was putting the finishing touches on its emergency plan to rescue the economy from debts of $141bn, which was supposed to be announced on Saturday.

Instead, President Duhalde - the country's fifth leader since December - announced the suspension of his plan and said banks would stay closed on Monday and Tuesday to prevent a run on savings.

He said Argentina was now on the brink of anarchy, and warned that millions of Argentines could lose their savings.

Angry people filled the streets with the clanging and clattering of pots and pans - a sound that has become the symbol of middle-class rage.

Small neighbourhood assemblies gathered in streets across the capital and then marched beneath banners to the city centre.

Call for resignations

There, a crowd grew outside the presidential palace, chanting "out, out, all the politicians out" and "give us our money".

Protesters are demanding free access to their bank accounts and the resignation of the government.

The supreme court ruled on Friday that banking restrictions limiting people's withdrawals to $800 a month amounted to unconstitutional constraints on the right to private property.

The restrictions were imposed two months ago to prevent a run on savings, which would bring down the entire banking system.

The measures are extremely unpopular, prompting often violent protests and leaving some people without enough cash to buy basic provisions.

The government has bought time by ordering bank holidays on Monday and Tuesday, but it may not be enough.

The BBC's Peter Greste
"People will lose a lot of money"
See also:

02 Feb 02 | Americas
Argentina 'on brink of anarchy'
30 Jan 02 | Business
IMF tells Argentina to cut spending
29 Jan 02 | Business
Argentina seeks US backing
21 Jan 02 | Americas
Argentines angry at peso conversion
17 Jan 02 | Business
Argentina receives debt lifeline
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