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Day before Turkish protesters to meet with PM, riot police retake Istanbul square

The move by riot police, who used tear gas, came just hours after the government said that Recep Tayyip Erdogan would meet with protest leaders tomorrow.

Riot police clash with protesters in Turkey's capital Ankara earlier today
Riot police clash with protesters in Turkey's capital Ankara earlier today
Image: Vadim Ghirda/AP/Press Association Images

HUNDREDS OF RIOT police have this morning retaken control of Istanbul’s Taksim Square, firing tear gas and water cannon at anti-government demonstrators who threw back molotov cocktails and fireworks.

The police said they wanted to remove the barricades erected around the square, the epicentre of 12 days of nationwide demonstrations, but would not force out the hundreds of protesters who have been camping out in the adjoining Gezi Park.

Police had stayed away from Taksim after officers pulled out of the area over a week ago and protesters were caught off-guard by their return.

The police action came just hours after the government said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who protesters see as increasingly authoritarian, would meet with some of the protest leaders tomorrow.

“Our intention is to remove the signs and banners at the site. We have no other goal,” said Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu on Twitter.

“We will not touch Gezi Park and Taksim, we will absolutely not touch you,” he added, urging demonstrators to stay away from troublemakers.

Burak Arat, 24, said he was sleeping in Gezi Park when police moved in nearby.

“We will fight. We want freedom. We are freedom fighters,” the tourism student told AFP as he made his way to the square where burst of tear gas were ringing out.

- © AFP, 2013

Read: Turkish Prime Minister agrees to meet protest leaders

Read: Young, urban women: the face of Turkey’s protest movement

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