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Icelanders demand PM resign during violent protests

Text by REUTERS

Latest update : 2008-11-23

Thousands of Icelanders took to the street in violent protests in Rekjavik, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Geir Haarde and central bank governor David Oddsson in the wake of the country's complete financial collapse.

REYKJAVIK - Thousands of Icelanders demonstrated in Reykjavik on Saturday demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Geir Haarde and Central Bank Governor David Oddsson for failing to stop a financial meltdown in the country.


It was the latest in a series of protests in the capital since the financial meltdown that crippled the island's economy.


Hordur Torfason, a well-known troubadour in Iceland and the main organiser of the protests, said the protests would continue until the government stepped down.


"They don't have our trust and they are no longer legitimate," Torfason said as the crowds gathered in the drizzle before the Althing, the Icelandic parliament.


A separate group of 200-300 people gathered in front of the city's main police station demanding the release of a young protester being held there, Icelandic media reported.


Police in riot gear used pepper spray to drive back an attempt to free the protester during which several windows at the police station were shattered. The protester was later released after a fine he had been sentenced to pay was paid.


Iceland's three biggest banks -- Kaupthing, Landsbanki and Glitnir -- collapsed under the weight of billions of dollars of debts accumulated in an aggressive overseas expansion, shattering the currency and forcing Iceland to seek aid from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).


This week, the North Atlantic island nation of 320,000 secured a package of more than $10 billion in loans from the IMF and several European countries to help it rebuild its shattered financial system.


Despite the loans, Iceland faces a sharp economic contraction and surging unemployment while many Icelanders also risk losing their homes and life savings.


A young man climbed onto the balcony of the Althing building, where the president appears upon inauguration and on Iceland's national day, and hung a banner reading: "Iceland for Sale - $2.100.000.000", the amount of the loan Iceland is getting from the IMF.


The rally lasted less than one hour and as daylight began to wane, demonstrators drifted away into the nearby coffee shops where the price of a cup of coffee has shot up to 300 kronas in the last few weeks, up by about one third from before the crisis struck, as the currency has tumbled.


Opposition parties tabled a no-confidence motion in the government on Friday over its handling of the crisis, but the motion carries little chance of toppling the ruling coalition which has a solid parliamentary majority.


"I've just had enough of this whole thing," said Gudrun Jonsdottir, a 36-year-old office worker.


"I don't trust the government, I don't trust the banks, I don't trust the political parties, and I don't trust the IMF. We had a good country here and they've ruined it."

Date created : 2008-11-23