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Slovak Police, Army Sent To Quell Romany Unrest

Bratislava, 24 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The Slovak government today ordered more than 2,000 police and army troops to areas where ethnic Romany unrest has exploded in past days over recent cuts in social benefits.

Interior Minister Vladimir Palko said the government has begun sending 1,447 police and 650 soldiers to restore order in parts of central and eastern Slovakia where Roma have attacked police and looted grocery stores.

The looting and clashes with police broke out after the center-right government of Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda began cutting welfare benefits this month to families without incomes.

Police clashed last night with up to 400 Roma who had gathered in Trebisov for an unauthorized protest of the government's social-welfare cuts.

Palko said that for the first time since 1989, the year communism ended in then-Czechoslovakia, authorities are conducting the largest deployment of police officers within the country.