Police fire tear gas on Indonesian protesters

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The Independent Online

Police fired tear gas to stop 300 Islamic students entering the grounds of Indonesia's Parliament during an anti–U.S. demonstration on Wednesday, witnesses said.

Police fired tear gas to stop 300 Islamic students entering the grounds of Indonesia's Parliament during an anti–US demonstration on Wednesday, witnesses said.

Police also beat other protesters during a separate rally outside the US Embassy. Four students were injured.

It was the third consecutive day of protest in the world's most populous Muslim nation against US–led strikes in Afghanistan.

In Thailand angry protesters marched on the US embassy in Bangkok.

Witnesses said riot officers took action at the Parliament after demonstrators pushed over its main gate.

Several groups staged noisy demonstrations outside the heavily guarded embassy and the United Nations building. They demanded Indonesia freeze its diplomatic relations with Washington.

Security Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for calm and warned that anti–US protests could damage Indonesia's attempts to fix its debt–ridden economy and build a strong democracy.

"Let's not become trapped by taking emotional steps such as cutting international ties," he said.

There were also protests in three other Indonesians cities, Makassar, Medan and Yogyakarta, where US flags and effigies of US President George W. Bush were burned along with car tires.

"The Muslim world must condemn the US terrorists," one group of women college students said in a statement.

On Tuesday, police used tear gas, warning shots and water cannons to disperse protesters outside the embassy.

The diplomatic mission, fortified with rows of razor wire, remained closed Wednesday even though Indonesian security forces increased its defenses. Two water cannons were also stationed there.

Some fringe Islamic groups have threatened to round up and expel Americans and other Westerners and have demanded that Indonesia oppose US military action in Afghanistan.

About 85 percent of Indonesia's 210 million people are Muslim.

So far the protests have been relatively small and analysts say most Indonesians are not actively hostile toward the United States.

President Megawati Sukarnoputri has not publicly commented on the US–led strikes. Immediately after the Sept. 11 suicide attacks in New York and Washington, she visited the United States and told Bush that her country would join his fight against terrorism.

Fearing a backlash that could scare away foreign investors, the government – which depends on the support of Muslim political parties – has vowed to protect foreign interests and Westerners.