Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government will continue with its controversial plans to overhaul a small park in central Istanbul, despite widespread anti-government protests sparked by public opposition to the plan.
During a news conference in Tunisia Thursday, Erdogan said "terror groups" were involved in the protests, which started as an environmental demonstration, and seven foreigners were among the protesters who have been arrested.
Erdogan returns to his country later today after spending several days in North Africa as protesters at home called for his resignation.
Critics accuse him of governing in an authoritarian manner and imposing his Islamic views on a secular nation.
The prime minister has dismissed the protests as bitterness by the opposition over lost elections, and said the demonstrators have no support among most Turks.
The deputy head of Erdogan's party, Huseyin Celik, urged supporters not to mass at the airport Thursday to show support for the prime minister.
Police used tear gas to break up protesters Wednesday night in central Ankara, while Istanbul was mainly quiet.
Earlier Wednesday, protesters gave Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc a list of demands, including firing officials responsible for using force against the marchers.
Two people have been killed, thousands hurt, and thousands of others arrested since last week. Arinc has apologized for the police response.
The protesters also demanded freedom for all those who have been jailed, and for the government to halt its plans to build on the park site.