Turkish PM warns 'patience has limits'

Turkish PM warns 'patience has limits'
Sun Jun 9, 2013 21:52:59

Turkey's defiant Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his patience "has a limit" going on the offensive against mass protests to his government's decade-long rule.

"We remained patient, we are still patient but there's a limit to our patience," Erdogan told thousands of cheering supporters as he landed at Ankara's airport late on Sunday.

"Nobody should be pessimistic. Nobody should worry. Turkey went through many events in the past and will overcome this too," he assured them.

As thousands of protesters massed in Istanbul, the capital Ankara and the western city of Izmir, in unrest now in its 10th day, Erdogan staged his own rallies, hitting three cities in one day to fire up loyalists of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

His fans relished the show of strength, frequently interrupting the outdoor speech with bursts of applause and chanting: "Turkey is proud of you".

At the same time, thousands of rival anti-government demonstrators thronged the capital's Kizilay square, where police used tear gas and jets of water to disperse demonstrators overnight, sending them scrambling and tripping over each other.

The unrest first erupted on May 31 with a tough police crackdown on a campaign to save Istanbul's Gezi Park from demolition. The trouble spiraled into nationwide protests against Erdogan and his party, seen as increasingly authoritarian.

More than 4,000 demonstrators, many of whom are young and middle-class, have been injured and three people have died in the unrest so far.

Erdogan on Sunday maintained his tough line against the protesters, dismissing them as "anarchists" and "terrorists".

"The youth that curses its prime minister cannot be my youth," he said earlier in the southern port of Mersin, at a sports centre packed with tens of thousands of flag-waving AKP loyalists.

"If you care about democracy, this prime minister is at your disposal," he added.

In the southern city of Adana, he urged a large crowd to respond to the demonstrations by voting for the AKP in next year's local polls. "I want you to teach them a first lesson through democratic means at the ballot box."

Adana also saw violence overnight, with police dousing demonstrators with tear gas. There were also reports of stone-throwing, pro-government rioters joining the fray.

The government insisted Saturday that the protests were "under control", but hours later some of the largest crowds yet packed Istanbul's Taksim Square, the epicenter of the demos, with people peacefully singing and dancing through the night.

Taksim has seen no police presence since officers pulled out last weekend.

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