Source AP ©

Merkel says G-8 protesters have right to peaceful protest

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday that anti-globalization protesters have their right to peaceful protest – but defended the massive security measures ahead of next month's Group of Eight summit.

German authorities have put up a fence topped with barbed wire around the summit site, raided offices of left-wing groups and taken body-scent samples to track potential offenders. The extent of the measures has drawn criticism from the opposition Greens and the former communist Left Party.

Merkel did not apologize for the methods as she laid out plans for the June 6-8 meeting at the Baltic Sea resort of Heiligendamm.

"Protest must be peaceful... Those who resort to violence make dialogue impossible," Merkel said in a speech to parliament. "Those who are criticizing the security measures would be the first to accuse the authorities of negligence if violence were to break out."

German police are trying to avoid a repeat of the violence at previous G-8 summits, particularly at Genoa in 2001 when police and protesters clashed in the streets for days.

Merkel added that peaceful protest had an important role to play: "Those who peacefully protest, their cause is not just legitimate, but gets our attention," she said.

The annual G-8 summit over the past few years has taken up more and more of the issues raised by protesters, such as aid to Africa, debt forgiveness for poor countries, and environmental issues such as global warming.

Merkel vowed dialogue with developing countries and said that the meeting was "not a matter of pushing the specific interests of the industrial countries against the rest of the world."

The use of scent tracking was first confirmed by officials Tuesday. Officials say samples taken from five suspects believed to be potentially dangerous would better help police dogs determine during the summit whether they were involved in any violence. The samples were to be destroyed after the summit, the ministry said.

The same technique was used by the East German secret police, the Stasi, to track dissidents and was criticized by opposition politicians.

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