Friday 23 January 2009 | Iceland feed | All feeds

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Protesters pelt car of Icelandic prime minister

Violent street protesters tried to attack Iceland's prime minister, but were shoved away by bodyguards before they could reach his official limousine.

 
Iceland protests - Protesters pelt car of Icelandic prime minister
Protesters lit fires in front of the parliament entrance, with some people igniting park benches, according to the police Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

The demonstrators, who were enraged by their government's handling of the financial crisis, pelted Geir Haarde's car with eggs and drink cans.

The protests have become a regular feature of life in the country's capital, Reykjavik, since the reopening of parliament after the Christmas break.

Footage on Iceland's RUV television channel showed bodyguards pushing angry protesters away from the car before riot police arrived and the prime minister was able to make his escape.

The latest demonstration left government buildings splattered with eggs and paint before protesters moved on to the parliament, the scene on Tuesday of violent clashes with the police.

Protesters lit fires in front of the parliament entrance, with some people igniting park benches, according to the police.

Johann Thorisson, the chief police inspector, reported that demonstrators had thrown eggs, cans and snowballs at the prime minister's car, but that he had not been physically attacked or harmed.

"There is still turbulence, but we are going to try and take it easy and not arrest anyone – now they just throw snowballs, banging on drums and making noise," he said.

Reykjavik has been rocked by frequent protests since the tiny and once tranquil island nation, of just 305,000 people, was hit by the global financial meltdown last year.

"The government isn't listening," said Hordur Torfason, a 63-year-old musician who has organised weekly protests in front of the parliament since October. "They act like we don't exist. As long as they keep this up, the protests will continue."

Iceland is expected to experience the world's sharpest economic contraction after the country's financial system completely collapsed in October owing foreign creditors billions of pounds.

Unemployment, once at zero, is expected to soar after Iceland, which in 2007 had the world's fifth-highest per capita income, was forced seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund.

But a £4 billion IMF loan will not prevent an economic contraction of 9.6 per cent this year.

Concern is growing over popular discontent driven by the impact of the global crisis after violent protests in recent weeks have hit Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, and Greece, which suffered a wave of riots in December.

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