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Wednesday
Jun122013

Both Sides Hardening as Turkey's Civil Unrest Escalates

ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images(ISTANBUL) -- Neither Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan nor anti-government demonstrators showed signs of backing down Tuesday as riot police tried to drive protesters from Istanbul's Taksim Square, which has become the flashpoint for two weeks of civil unrest over the government's alleged move toward authoritarianism.

Police launched tear gas and water cannons at protesters, sending them scrambling out of Taksim Square, only to see them return later for more confrontations.

Erdogan has plans to meet with organizers on Wednesday but this latest display of the government's intolerance for social dissent could jeopardize the plans.

In a televised speech before parliament Tuesday, the prime minister said, "To those who...are at Taksim and elsewhere taking part in the demonstrations with sincere feelings: I call on you to leave those places and to end these incidents and I send you my love.  But for those who want to continue with the incidents I say, it's over.  As of now we have no tolerance for them."

Erdogan complained that what began as a peaceful protest against the redevelopment of Gezi Park has been hijacked by radical elements bent on destroying Turkey.

The Turkish Human Rights Foundation says four people have been killed, including one policeman, since the clashes began on May 31. 

With demonstrations taking place throughout the country, as many as 5,000 protesters have either been wounded or treated for tear gas exposure, while 600 police have received injuries.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio