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Last Updated: Monday, 19 December 2005, 04:19 GMT
Sydney police claim beach success
The word "Sorry" is written with seaweed on Sydney's Cronulla Beach
The violence has emptied beaches a week before Christmas
Police in Sydney, Australia's largest city, have said a big presence on beaches at the weekend stopped a repeat of recent race riots.

Some 2,000 officers were deployed to stop and check suspects in their cars, and arrested a group of five men thought to be white supremacists.

A police official said "determined" attempts had been made to get through.

Thousands of white men attacked people of Arabic and Mediterranean background on a Sydney beach the previous weekend.

The violence was apparently sparked by an attack on two lifeguards.

It led, in turn, to two nights of violence and vandalism by groups of men of Middle Eastern or Mediterranean appearance.

Since the violence, police patrolled troubled areas in cars, boats, helicopters, on foot and on horseback, and seized weapons including swords, iron bars and petrol bombs.

Christmas party in doubt

Over the weekend, police charged 149 people with 264 offences, and seized 27 mobile phones and 15 cars.

"We feel that the police have been involved to the point where we have stopped potential disasters from happening in and around our beachside suburbs, so we are confident we averted potentially major tragedies," said New South Wales state Assistant Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione.

Even though we had those large numbers we still had people trying to get through these areas and that tells us that they were determined," he added.

Many residents stayed away from the beaches at the weekend despite the summery weather.

Speaking about Bondi Beach, local man Dave Byron told Reuters news agency it was "sad to see such an icon of Australia not being used".

A decision is yet be made on whether to allow Bondi's famous Christmas Day beach party, which attracts thousands of backpacking foreign tourists, to go ahead, said New South Wales state premier Morris Iemma.


SEE ALSO:
Arms seized in Sydney beach raid
18 Dec 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Sydney police get riot powers
15 Dec 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Long-term tensions behind Sydney riots
13 Dec 05 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Sydney unrest continues
13 Dec 05 |  In Pictures


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