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Protesters, police clash after EU summit

The protest was held after the end of the summit
The protest was held after the end of the summit  

BARCELONA, Spain -- Pockets of anti-globalisation protesters broke windows and clashed with police in Barcelona late Saturday after European Union leaders ended a two-day economic summit.

A largely peaceful march by 250,000 anti-globalisation demonstrators turned violent late Saturday, when groups of protesters threw Molotov cocktails and fired small incendiary devices at police and broke windows of banks and other businesses in downtown Barcelona.

The clashes broke out near the national police headquarters when "small, violent groups tried to provoke" police, and it quickly spread to other locations downtown, a police spokeswoman told CNN. Seven police officers were injured and 38 demonstrators were arrested, she said.

Earlier, demostrators carried banners with slogans such as "Terror U.S.A." and "Against A Capitalist Europe" as they made their way from Plaza de Catalunya down Via Laietana to the city's port area two kilometers (1 mile) away.

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European Union leaders are discussing ways to make the group's economy more competitive. Robin Oakley reports from Barcelona.

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The march followed efforts by leaders of the 15-member bloc to inject some momentum into ambitious economic reform plans first broached two years ago in Lisbon.

They announced they had clinched a deal on the issue of France's state electricity monopoly and made progress on other matters.

Behind the intense security the main business of the EU summit had been to revive a plan to open up European markets and strip away regulation in areas ranging from transport and energy to job security.

Spain's Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said after the summit that the issue of the liberalisation of electricity and gas markets for industrial and other business users had been resolved.

"We have taken a fundamental step today," Aznar said.

France agreed to a partial opening of its energy market that will by 2004 let French businesses, but not domestic consumers, buy their power from private competitors to state-owned Electricite de France.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the deal a "limited but solid achievement."

"There is no doubt this is a change of gear for Europe. Momentum for economic

change has been secured," he said.

"I said before this was a `make or break' summit. It was important, that having stalled in Stockholm, that we moved forward and we have moved forward."

French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin had told their EU partners on Friday they could not go any further on energy liberalisation.

"It is progress, but not quite the progress some member states would have liked," an EU diplomat told Reuters.

Among other items, Aznar said EU leaders reaffirmed their support for the creation of an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel and condemned "terrorism."

Blair said the EU summit also agreed that the re-election of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe had not been free and fair.

The EU leaders met amid tight security
The EU leaders met amid tight security  

Earlier, the heads of government issued a draft communique expressing support for collective action against U.S. steel tariffs through the World Trade Organization (WTO).

EU officials made clear on Friday the bloc would seek compensation for U.S. President George W. Bush's tariffs.

For the first time, 13 mainly ex-communist states who hope to eventually join the EU have also taken full part in talks at the Barcelona summit.

The EU has to reform its economic practice if it is to compete with the U.S. Sweden, for example, has complained that it costs four times as much for a business to set up in Europe than it does in the United States.

The EU must also open up labour and trade markets to competition but CNN's European Political Editor Robin Oakley said the gap that existed between free-marketeers and social welfare protectionists remains wide.


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