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Police Break Up Anti-IMF Protest In Istanbul

Turkish police fired warning shots into the air and used water cannons, tear gas and pepper spray on Tuesday to disperse hundreds of stone-throwing demonstrators, protesting against the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank held in Istanbul.

Dozens of masked protesters shattered the windows of a McDonald's restaurant and several Turkish and foreign banks and damaged vehicles as they ran into the streets behind Istanbul's Taksim Square, which is less than a kilometer (half a mile) from the venue of the IMF and World Bank meeting.

The protesters armed with slings later regrouped and tried to confront the police in narrow back streets, but heavy police presence prevented them from reaching the meeting venue.

Thousands of police wearing gas masks and protective gear erected barriers around the venue and detained about 100 protesters _ mostly members of small leftist parties or labor unions. CNN-Turk television said some foreign protesters were also involved. Police helicopters hovered above the crowds.

Clouds of tear gas filled the air above Taksim Square while firefighters battled a blaze set by protesters. Passers-by and reporters were also affected by the tear gas. The streets were littered with debris from damaged shops and empty tear gas canisters.

Police said they had reacted after firebombs were thrown at them.

Several shop owners shuttered their shops along the famous tourist route of Istiklal Street, which was deserted in a matter of minutes as patrons hid inside the shops or bazaars.

But protesters raided some bank branches, damaging windows, computers and desks.

Some other leftist protesters waved red flags and carried banners that read: "Your democracy is dictatorship, your economy is slavery."

Last week, a student journalist hurled a shoe at IMF Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the finance official answered questions at a university in Istanbul. The shoe missed its target.

Turkey and the International Monetary Fund are engaged in slow-moving talks about a new loan deal that could boost investor confidence, but Turkey has been reluctant to cut spending and implement austerity measures.


Associated Press Writers Selcan Hacaoglu and Gulden Alp in Ankara contributed to this report.