RAMALLAH — The Palestinian Authority has broken up a demonstration supporting anti-government protesters in Egypt, while permitting a smaller protest backing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak — drawing accusations it is picking sides in the Egyptian unrest.
The PA considers Mubarak an ally for his role in peace talks with Israel and for seeking reconciliation between rival Palestinians factions.
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While officials have not publicly commented on the Egyptian protests calling for Mubarak's ouster, some have privately expressed worries they'll lose a loyal friend — fears reflected in their handling of Wednesday's two protests.
Freelance journalist Mohammed Jaradat said police quickly dispersed more than 100 people who gathered in downtown Ramallah in solidarity with the Egyptian people calling for Mubarak's resignation. Police detained him and three other people, Jaradat said, including a cameraman whose footage was confiscated. Some protesters said police roughed them up.
The incident came hours after a smaller pro-Mubarak demonstration in the same spot.
A reporter from The Associated Press saw about 10 protesters wait for cameramen and photographers to set up their gear, then chant support for Mubarak. They also called Egyptian pro-democracy advocate Mohamed ElBaradei a "coward and "an American collaborator."
More than a dozen police stood by. Demonstrators would not say who organized them.
Jaradat, the freelance journalist, accused the Palestinian Authority of a "double standard."
"The Palestinian Authority is against any demonstration that goes against its politics," he said.
New York-based Human Rights Watch called on the Palestinian Authority not to use violence against peaceful protesters.
Police spokesman Adnan Damiri said both protests were illegal because they had not received permits. He denied charges of favoritism.
"Our policy is that we don't intervene in the internal affairs of other countries," he said.
The Palestinian Authority has prevented two other demonstrations in recent weeks in support of anti-government protesters in Tunisia and Egypt.