Authorities in the Central African Republic (CAR) on Tuesday banned a rally which 15 opposition parties had planned for the afternoon, and a march to back the beleaguered government was also forbidden.
The government said in a communiqué that it was unable to ensure security at either demonstration because of "frequent vandalism in public places" by clandestine groups, while the rallies could get out of hand.
One opposition member of parliament, Charles Massi, chairman of the Forum for Democracy and Modernity (FODEM), told AFP that "the meeting will take place whatever happens".
In a broadcast message banning the rival demonstrations, the government called on politicians on both sides to "show a sense of responsibility".
The financially strapped regime of President Felix-Ange Patasse is currently faced with the demands of striking civil servants who want to be paid at least 12 months' worth of unpaid salaries.
Some are owed 30 months in backpay.
Many public sector workers have been on strike since October.
Lawmakers in Patasse's own Central African People's Liberation Movement (MLPC) have attacked former colonial power France for failing to offer help.
Some contend that Paris favors the president's predecessor, onetime military coup leader Andre Kolingba, who held power here between 1981 and 1993.
"France doesn't like Patasse and the Centrafrican people are having to pay for it," one MPLC MP recently told AFP, on condition of anonymity.
Even the prime minister, Anicet-Georges Dologuele, told AFP last week that "for a people used to living off aid, it seems like being abandoned."
Dologuele has asked for emergency aid, but observed that Paris no longer "opens its purse without the agreement of the IMF (International Monetary Fund)".
"It's better to give some money now than to wait for the situation to get worse, which would necessitate spending even more," he said, in a reference to events in 1997 when France had to intervene militarily after an army mutiny.
The opposition has taken advantage of MLPC criticism of France, accusing the government of looking for a "scapegoat" to justify its own bad management.
Opposition parties on Friday issued a joint statement urging Patasse to quit office "in the national interest".
They announced they would hold the meeting on Tuesday to propose a political platform and to push for "change without violence" -- BANGUI (AFP)
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