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Turkish president urges dialogue

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan called for dialogue with legitimate demonstrators.

Protesters in Turkey clash with riot police in Taksim Square, Istanbul. Picture : AFP

ISTANBUL - Turkey's president called on Wednesday for dialogue with legitimate demonstrators after riot police cleared the Istanbul square at the centre of almost two weeks of protest against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

Abdullah Gul, who has taken a more conciliatory tone than Erdogan during the unrest, said it was the duty of government to engage with its critics but appeared to close ranks with the prime minister, saying violent protests were a different matter.

Erdogan, who has dismissed the demonstrators as "riff-raff", was due to meet a group of public figures to discuss the unrest, which began as a peaceful campaign against plans to build on Gezi Park abutting Istanbul's Taksim Square.

"If people have objections ... then to engage in a dialogue with these people, to hear out what they say is no doubt our duty," Gul told reporters.

"Those who employ violence are something different and we have to distinguish them ... We must not give violence a chance ... This would not be allowed in New York, this would not be allowed in Berlin," Gul said during a visit to the Black Sea coast.

Riot police fought running battles with pockets of protesters overnight, clearing Taksim. By dawn, the square was strewn with wreckage from bulldozed barricades but taxis crossed it for the first time since the troubles started. Several hundred remained in an encampment of tents in Gezi Park.

Taksim Solidarity, an umbrella group for the demonstrators, said the delegation due to meet Erdogan was not representative and the meeting little more than symbolic.

"Had Solidarity spoken with anyone in this group to share information, the meeting with the prime minister would have meaning. Now it doesn't," said Bulent Muftuoglu, a leading figure in Solidarity and an official of Turkey's Greens Party.