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Hundreds lay seige to NATO HQ

Latest update : 2008-03-25

NATO's headquarters was under siege on Saturday as hundreds of demonstrators from NATO member countries gathered just outside Brussels to mark the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war. (Report: B.Harris)

Hundreds of demonstrators from member countries of NATO laid siege to the alliance's headquarters on the outskirts of Brussels Saturday to mark the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war.
  
Belgian police said they had briefly detained about 450 demonstrators in and around the headquarters located in the suburb of Evere.
  
Demonstrators were removed from the premises, identified and later released, Belga news agency quoted police as saying.
  
Minor damage was reported near the NATO building, police said but added that no charges had been filed.
  
"The police force was huge and they didn't hesitate to use dogs, horses, pepper spray, clubs and water cannon," Belga quoted one demonstrator as saying.
  
Belgian television showed police using powerful water jets to dislodge people trying to scale the high fencing around the NATO buildings.
  
A spokesman for the pacifist groups that organised the NATO demonstration, Hans Lammerant, earlier said police made "dozens of arrests" in and around the headquarters precincts.
  
Lammerant said that between 50 and 70 people had managed to get inside the enclosure out of some 700 demonstrators from around 15 member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, including France, Germany and Greece.
  
"The idea was to close NATO with seals or sticking-paper but the people who got inside were immediately arrested, along with dozens of others who were demonstrating outside," he said.
  
He said police had used clubs and one person was bitten by a police dog.
  
The anti-war demonstrators, responding to a call by Belgian groups Bombspotting and Vredeactie (Action for Peace), accuse the Atlantic alliance of being the instrument of US policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  
In Athens, meanwhile, more than 1,000 people filled the centre of the Greek capital to protest the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and to support a mixture of other causes.
  
The demonstration was called by trade unions, anti-war and other groups, including Palestinian and Pakistani immigrants.
  
As well as the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, they demanded a NATO-free Balkans and "liberty for Palestine" as they marched from the city centre to the US embassy, escorted by a strong force of police.

Date created : 2008-03-23

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