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Praise and protests at May Day events

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In Asia, where communism still flourishes alongside market economies, people celebrated international Labor Day Thursday with praise for proletariat heroes and union-sponsored picnics. In Russia they joined anti-government protests.

In Beijing, crowds filled Tiananmen Square at dawn to honor model workers and watch soldiers raise the flag on the first of a three-day vacation.But noting the 10 million layoffs from debt-ridden state-owned industries over the past year, an editorial in the Communist Party newspaper, People's Daily, warned more bitter medicine was ahead.

The commentary called for factory managers to be given greater responsibility - a code for allowing them to make decisions based on profits, rather than on full employment.

Russia's May Day festivities turned into demonstrations in many cities.

About 10,000 protesters, most of them communists, marched through central Moscow and gathered just off the Red Square to lambaste the government and demand President Boris Yeltsin's resignation.

"Yeltsin's gang to court!" chanted the crowd, awash in Soviet red flags and anti-government banners.

In another former Soviet republic, Belarus, an opposition leader was arrested after he persuaded participants in a trade union rally in the capital, Minsk, to join an opposition march against hard-line President Alexander Lukashenko.

Police gave no reason for the arrest of Nikolai Statkevich, leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party. Lukashenko has shown little tolerance for dissent, having sent police to break up previous opposition rallies.

Also in Belarus, a powerful blast damaged 80 yards of a gas pipeline just southwest of Minsk. A previously unknown group calling itself the Belarusian Liberation Army claimed responsibility.

In North Korea, where famine has brought widespread suffering, KCNA, the news agency of the Stalinist state, delivered its usual praise of revolution.

"The workers of all countries have valiantly waged a fierce struggle to smash the bulwark of capital with the red flag firmly in their hands. . . . If they uphold the flag, the workers and other people will win, and if they abandon it they will die," it said.

In South Korea, a Labor Day rally of 10,000 people in Seoul ended with hundreds throwing fire bombs and rocks at police. No injuries were reported. Thirty people were arrested.

Vietnam, facing unprecedented labor unrest, observed a low-key national holiday. Dozens of strikes this year by workers demanding a greater share of the country's new wealth have idled private and state-run companies.

In the Philippines, 10,000 people marched in Manila, waving red banners and posters of workers' fists clenching hammers, wrenches and an AK-47 rifle. The marchers demanded a 54 percent increase in the daily minimum wage.

Thousands of police ringed streets around rallies in Sri Lanka. The tight security is a legacy of the assassination of former President Ranasinghe Premadasa by a rebel Tamil Tiger suicide bomber in 1993.

In Turkey, more than 100,000 workers used a May Day rally in Istanbul to denounce the Islamic-led government, whose anti-secular moves have angered the military and put the governing coalition in jeopardy.

In Germany, labor unions held dozens of rallies to protest high unemployment. Thousands of police were deployed in eastern cities for fear of clashes between radicals on the right and left.