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Anti-government anger builds in Moldova

Tens of thousands have rallied in Chisinau to demand the resignation of senior government officials. Widespread anger smolders over missing $1 billion lost in fraud.

At least 10,000 Moldovans gathered in the heart of the capital Sunday, demanding early elections and the resignation of senior government officials and early elections over

a massive fraud that has burdened the country's state reserves

as living standards for ordinary people continue to fall.

Some protesters scuffled with police and tried to force their way into parliament. Protesters have been gathering on Chisinau's main square for the fifth consecutive week since

September 6

.

The protesters, calling for a new government and the resignation of President Nicolae Timofti who has presided over a

pro-European Union leadership

since early 2012, chanted: "Victory! Early elections!"

Missing funds dog beleagured government

Proteste gegen die Regierung in Moldau

Police have scuffled with protesters trying to force their way into parliament in Chisinau

Public anger has been building over a high-level larceny in which at least $1 billion (900 million euros) disappeared from Moldova's three largest banks - roughly one eighth of Moldova's gross domestic product.

The National Bank of Moldova took the three banks under special administration last year after they were reduced to insolvency by the siphoning of at least $1 billion through a web of toxic loans, asset swaps and shady deals.

Protesters are demanding a probe into the missing money and for those responsible to be prosecuted. The losses were covered by Moldova's reserves and paid for by the public in one of Europe's poorest countries.

Vasile Nastase, a leader of the Dignity and Truth non-governmental organization which has staged the protests vowed to intensify the protests.

"From tomorrow, we will declare acts of civil disobedience," Nastase said. He urged Moldovans not to pay bills, and to go on strike in state institutes, such as schools. "We will block this government."

The fraud has held up the disbursement of valuable budget support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

jar/ng (AP, Reuters)

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