Riot police and protesters in battle at EU summit

ANANOVA (London) December 7

Riot police are fighting pitched battles with thousands of protesters at the opening of the EU summit in Nice.

Clouds of teargas erupted outside the conference centre in the South of France as the 15 heads of state and government prepared to meet leaders of applicant countries wanting full European Union status.

What the French had hoped would be a dignified summit ending with an historic treaty descended into running battles between thousands of anti-globalisation demonstrators and police.

The protesters hurled fireworks and furniture at the police, who responded with volleys of teargas grenades and what sounded at times like stun grenades.

There were reports that as many as 50,000 demonstrators had taken to the streets and there was alarm in diplomatic circles that they had come within 200-300 yards of the main conference venue.

Officials waiting outside the Acropolis Centre at times had to cover their faces to protect themselves from the effects of the teargas which blew back towards the police who had released it.

From behind the police lines, several riot officers could be seen leading apparently injured colleagues to safety - though it was not clear whether they had been hurt by demonstrators or simply suffered the effects of the gas.

Last night tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through Nice on the eve of the meeting.

Heavily armed riot police monitored the protest and were later involved in a clash with about 500 demonstrators at Nice's main train station.

Two police officers were slightly injured, local authorities said. No arrests were reported.