Police fired water cannons to drive back anti-government protesters as they pushed toward a hotel Saturday where U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was taken after her arrival in Malaysia.
Seeking U.S. support, the demonstrators marched to within 200 yards of the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Kuala Lumpur, where Albright was taken after arriving to join preparations for a Pacific Rim economic summit Tuesday and Wednesday.
Defying thousands of police and security officers stationed in the capital for the meeting, 3,000 people rallied downtown to criticize Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
“Clinton, arrest Mahathir! Clinton, save us from Mahathir!” the protesters screamed as they started toward the hotel. It was unclear if Albright was in the hotel at the time.
President Clinton on Saturday canceled his trip to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in order to deal with the crisis with Iraq. He sent Vice President Al Gore in his place.
In Kuala Lumpur, several marchers roughed up two police officers on the way to the hotel and set a police motorcycle on fire. Police quickly sealed off the area around the hotel.
The protest broke up shortly before midnight Saturday.
Earlier in the day, as officials from Pacific Rim nations met to discuss Asia’s financial crisis, police fired shots into the air to disperse thousands of people demonstrating against the government.
It was the first time that security forces had fired shots since anti-government protests began after the dismissal of Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on Sept. 2 and his subsequent arrest. Anwar is being tried for alleged abuse of power and sexual misconduct. He denies the charges.