Police break up anti-government protest in Georgia

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TBILISI, Nov 7 (Reuters) Georgian police armed with batons today broke up a six-day protest outside parliament calling for the resignation of US ally President Mikhail Saakashvili, but opposition leaders vowed not to be defeated.

The protesters accuse Saakashvili of economic mismanagement and corruption, accusations he refutes.

An opposition leader told Reuters some of the police hit protesters with plastic batons.

''There were about 1,000 police,'' opposition leader Tina Khidasheli said by telephone. ''They started operations at 8 am.

They beat us and detained two people as far as I know.'' There had been about 100 demonstrators outside parliament, including 47 hunger strikers, she said.

A Russian television crew told Reuters police had taken away pictures and video they had filmed during the operation.

''Saakashvili has shown strong nerves just for five days, but now we will show him what strong nerves really are,'' Khidasheli said.

Thousands have attended the rallies since Friday, posing the largest challenge to Saakashvili's authority since he swept to power in a peaceful 2003 revolution.

Georgia lies at the centre of the Caucasus region -- a landbridge between Asia and Europe which hosts a pipeline pumping oil from the Caspian Sea to the West.

Tbilisi's mayor Gigi Ugulava defended the police action.

''I was listening to one of the opposition leaders who was saying proudly they planned to pitch tents and set up a tent town in Tbilisi,'' he told a news briefing.

''What we did is stop this because it is the will of the people not to have a tent town in Tbilisi.'' Reuters RC DS1210

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