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Saturday, May 1, 1999 Published at 21:05 GMT 22:05 UK


Anti-Nato sentiments mark May Day celebrations

Condemnation of Nato attacks against Yugoslavia and the defence of workers' rights were the central themes on Saturday at rallies across the world celebrating May Day.

In Russia, Communist leader Gennadiy Zyuganov called for an end to Nato action in Yugoslavia.

"All forces representing common sense in Russia should unite to stop Nato's aggression against Yugoslavia and the bloodletting in the Balkans," he told a rally in Teatralnaya Square, in the centre of Moscow.

The only way out of the crisis was for "Russia and European countries - including Germany, Italy and France - to combine their efforts", Itar-Tass quoted him as saying.

"The first stage is to stop Nato's bombing of Yugoslavia, to maintain the territorial integrity of Yugoslavia and to return the refugees," he said.

The demonstrators observed a minute's silence for the "victims" of the Nato attacks, and stuck up posters proclaiming: "No to Nato Fascism". Interfax news agency quoted the Interior Ministry as saying the number of participants at the Communist rally was 10,000.

But over 25,000 people took part in another rally in the city organized by the Moscow Trade Union Federation.

The demonstrators also called for peace talks in Yugoslavia, along with the "right to work" and better pay and work conditions, Itar-Tass said.

In the Russian Far East protesters demanding wage arrears heard the head of the Kamchatka trade unions promising them free beer.

But not until the autumn, as money was a bit tight at the moment, he said.

The Interior Ministry said a total of 300,000 people took part in May Day rallies across the country, while in Ukraine the figure reached almost 200,000, according to Itar-Tass.

Czech Republic

A Communist-organized rally in the Czech capital Prague heard calls for the resignation of President Vaclav Havel for having "blood on his hands" over the Kosovo crisis.

"He is no humanitarian," Communist Chairman Miroslav Grebenicek told over 2,000 supporters.

"Suddenly he has turned into a warrior: he would like to throw bombs, shoot and send young men to their deaths.

"He has turned into an ordinary militarist," the Czech news agency CTK reported him as saying.

Grebenicek condemned the Nato campaign against Yugoslavia and the position of all Czech politicians who supported it.

A confrontation in the city between anarchists and right-wing skinheads then turned violent as police tried to push the anarchists from the Most Legii Bridge on the right bank of the River Vltava.

The skinheads had gathered as a counter-demonstration to the left-wing rallies.

The anarchists responded by throwing petrol bombs, paving stones and bottles after they tried to block the bridge to prevent the skinhead march, CTK reported.

Police used smoke bombs to drive the anarchists away and a number of them were arrested.

Germany

In Germany some 12,000 demonstrators heard former Finance Minister Oskar Lafontaine condemn the Nato raids as "completely incomprehensible" .

Speaking in his home town of Saarbrücken, he said the attacks would only have made sense if they had been aimed at bringing Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to sign the peace plan.

"Nato did not take into consideration the possibility that Milosevic might not sign.

"Thus Nato's military planning has now reached a dead end," the German news agency ddpADN reported him as saying.

He said bombing was a form of collective punishment, and on that basis it had to stop.

He also condemned the use of certain language in the campaign, saying it was "incredibly thoughtless" to talk of "collateral damage", when shelling positions also meant "killing people" .

Spain

Similar anti-Nato sentiments were expressed at marches organized by the two main trade unions in Spain, where banners with the slogan "No to Nato - bases out" were displayed.

"The conflict is showing that Nato, which in the end is causing disorder rather than restoring order and peace, is powerless to bring about a quick solution," UGT leader Candido Mendez told supporters in central Madrid.

"Therefore, comrades, we demand an immediate search for a peaceful solution within the framework of the UN," he said in remarks broadcast on Spanish TV.

Elsewhere around the world May Day events were staged in a spirit of defiance.

A total of 47 people were detained in Turkey for staging an "illegal demonstration" in the southern town of Adiyaman, while in Istanbul a rally staged by left-wing and pro-Kurdish groups passed off without incident after police mounted a large security operation, the Turkish news agency Anatolia reported.

Meanwhile, in Croatia, several thousand trade unionists took to the streets of Zagreb in defiance of President Franjo Tudjman's call for the day to pass without "social conflict" , the Croatian news agency HINA said.

In South Korea, some 25,000 demonstrators warned of an all-out strike unless the government called off what they said were unfair restructuring and mass lay-off plans, according to Yonhap news agency.

And in China, Xinhua reported that over 10,000 people gathered in Tiananmen Square, in Beijing to watch a flag-raising ceremony and "express their heartfelt wishes for the motherland" .

The celebrations were also coincided with a book fair and an exhibition by computer firms.

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.



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