Clashes erupt in Croatian anti-government protests

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Hundreds of anti-government protestors clashed with police in the Croatian capital Saturday, leaving 33 people injured while several dozen including an AFP photographer were detained.

Anti-riot police used batons to disperse protestors who hurled flaming torches, stones, bricks and bottles at them, an AFP reporter said.

The demonstrators, who also rallied Thursday, demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor over high unemployment and living costs that they blame on her government's economic policy, as well as corruption.

Police said 58 people were detained because of "violent behaviour."

"Their aim was to create unrest and behave violently towards police," police official Tomislav Buterin told journalists.

He could not provide details about AFP's detained photographer. Witnesses said the photographer had not heeded a police order to move away from the scene of the clashes.

According to a police spokeswoman, the protestors were members of an anti-government group organised through Facebook and were joined by football fans.

A total of 33 people, 21 of them policemen, were injured in the violence, the official said. Two citizens sustained serious injuries, Buterin said.

Clashes also erupted in Thursday's protest, which drew about 1,000 people.

Government spokesman Mladen Pavic strongly condemned Saturday's "hooliganism and violence".

He said that "according to some information, some opposition parties were involved in organising and financing the Zagreb violence." He did not elaborate.

Kosor took over the helm of the government in 2009 when her predecessor Ivo Sanader, currently detained on suspicion of corruption and abuse of power, suddenly stepped down.

The economy of the country, which aspires to join the European Union, was hard-hit by the global crisis and has contracted for the past two years.

Saturday's violence erupted when police barred several hundred people, mainly youngsters, from marching towards the government building at which protests are banned.

At the same time about 15,000 people, according to police, protested separately in Zagreb's main square to support complaints by veterans of the 1991-1995 independence war that the government was not protecting them from war crimes prosecutions.

Police said the protestors who clashed with police were not part of the veterans' rally.

The demonstration organised by a war veterans group was the largest of its kind since a wave of similar gatherings was sparked by Bosnia's arrest in January of a Croat war veteran wanted by Serbia.

"Croatian War Veterans are Heroes"! and "Stop the Persecution of War Veterans", read some of the banners carried by the protestors.

"Treason! Treason!" they chanted also calling for Kosor to leave.

Many in Croatia see war veterans as heroes and symbols of the country's fight for independence from the former Yugoslavia.