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Turkish PM calls for end to protests

Thousands of protesters clashed with riot police in Istanbul and Ankara for a second day.

Protestors clash with police in Istanbul. Picture: AFP

ISTANBUL - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan made a defiant call for an end to the fiercest anti-government demonstrations in years on Saturday, as thousands of protesters clashed with riot police in Istanbul and Ankara for a second day.

The unrest was triggered by government plans for a replica Ottoman-era barracks housing shops or apartments in Istanbul's Taksim Square, long a venue for political protest, but has widened into a broader show of defiance against Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Police fired teargas and water cannon down a major shopping street as crowds of protesters chanting "shoulder to shoulder against fascism" and "government resign" marched towards Taksim, where hundreds were injured in clashes on Friday.

A police helicopter buzzed overhead as groups of mostly young men and women, bandanas or surgical masks tied around their mouths, used Facebook and Twitter on mobile phones to try to organise and regroup in side streets.

"If this is about holding meetings, if this is a social movement, where they gather 20, I will get up and gather 200,000 people. Where they gather 100,000, I will bring together one million from my party," Erdogan said in a televised speech.

"Every four years we hold elections and this nation makes its choice ... Those who have a problem with government's policies can express their opinions within the framework of law and democracy," he said.

Police later pulled back from Gezi Park in Taksim, where the demonstration started peacefully on Monday with people pitching tents in protest at trees being torn up for the redevelopment.

Waiters scurried out of luxury hotels lining the square, on what should be a busy weekend for tourists in one of the world's most visited cities, ferrying lemons to protesters, who squirted the juice in their eyes to mitigate the effects of tear gas.

Stone-throwing protesters also clashed with police in the Kizilay district of central Ankara as a helicopter fired tear gas into the crowds.

Riot police with electric shock batons chased demonstrators into side streets and shops.

Protests also broke out in the Aegean coastal city of Izmir late on Friday.

But the protests included a broad spectrum of people opposed to Erdogan and were not organised by any political party.