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Swaziland Police Block Protest, Detain Union Leaders


Police in Swaziland have blocked people from reaching a pro-democracy protest, held one day before parliamentary elections are scheduled.

Journalists and union leaders say police Thursday blocked cars and buses from accessing the protest site, and that they arrested at least four union activists.

There was no immediate comment from police.

The protest was planned for a post on the border with South Africa. Some 200 people demonstrated Thursday on the South African side.

Unions and pro-democracy activists in Swaziland are seeking greater freedoms in a kingdom where political parties have been banned since 1973. Activists dismiss Friday's parliamentary elections as a sham.

King Mswati keeps a strong grip on power, and is responsible for appointing the prime minister and Cabinet members. The king's critics say his extravagant lifestyle has helped keep Swaziland mired in poverty.

About 40 percent of Swazi workers are unemployed, and the country has one of the world's highest HIV rates.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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