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UPDATE 1-Kyrgyz police, protesters clash over gold venture

(Adds opposition leader, details, background)

By Olga Dzyubenko

BISHKEK, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Kyrgyz police fired tear gas to stop a group of protesters storming government headquarters in the centre of the capital on Wednesday after they broke off from opposition rally demanding the nationalisation of a gold venture with a Canadian company.

The clashes broke out two days after Kyrgyzstan's Prime Minister Zhantoro Satybaldiyev travelled to the Kumtor gold mine operated by Canada's Centerra Gold Inc and gave assurances the venture would not be nationalised.

Satybaldiyev's pledges to defend badly-needed foreign investment in the volatile Central Asian nation angered local nationalists who had failed to muster up enough support in parliament in June to pass a law nationalising the mine.

Police fired tear gas and stun grenades to clear some 2,000 demonstrators from the central Ala Too square after about 200 of them climbed the fence surrounding the nearby building housing the government and parliament and tried to occupy it.

"We must occupy the offices of ministers and members of parliament and spend nights there ... in order to create a new state system which will truly serve the people," Kamchibek Tashiyev, leader of the parliamentary faction of the nationalist Ata Zhurt party, told his supporters from the back of a truck.

Brief scuffles broke out shortly, with Tashiyev's mainly young supporters pelting police with stones.

"I will assume all responsibility, follow me," Tashiyev shouted through a megaphone.

"Bureaucrats in the government promised that they would take Kumtor back and it would work for the good of the people ... Kumtor belongs to our nation, and we must change the entire state system and replace this government."

Police managed to push back protesters into side streets, but several hundred policemen - some on horseback - were still guarding the perimeter of the white-marble government building popularly known as "The White House".

Bishkek has seen several similar attacks on the government headquarters since Kyrgyzstan's independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The most violent protests, in March 2005 and April 2010, toppled two presidents who then fled abroad.

Earlier official attempts to attract large-scale investment to the impoverished but resource-rich country have snagged on protests by nationalists angered by what they describe as a sell-off of the country to foreigners.

On Aug. 28, the government had to cancel its first televised auction aiming to sell new mining licences after nationalist protesters stormed a TV studio.

(Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Jon Hemming)

((dmitry.solovyov@thomsonreuters.com))

Keywords: KYRGYZSTAN CLASHES/