BEIJING, May 1 (Xinhua) -- Workers and employees all over the world marked the International Labor Day Saturday with celebrations and protests.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea held a national meeting at the Rakwon Machine Complex. Premier Kim Yong Il said in his speech "the working people in the DPRK will carry out their historic mission in defending world peace and security and boost international solidarity with the working people of the world."
Performances were given by artists of national art troupes at parks and pleasure grounds in Pyongyang, and senior officials went to factories and villages to celebrate the festival with the civilians. Major newspapers issued editorials appealing to the people to "promote the production on different fields of the economic construction."
Russia's main political parties and trade unions held a national parade to celebrate May Day.
The parade began at 9:00 a.m. local time on the downtown Tver Avenue, with around 25,000 supporters of Russian ruling party, the United Russia party, and Moscow Trade Union holding posters with slogans such as "Russia Forward" and "We need modernization."
About 7,000 supporters of the Communist Party started their parade from Kaluga Square, with slogans reading, "Russian workers, united!" and "Fight for education, jobs and pay."
According to Russia's Confederation of Independent Trade Unions, a total of 2.5 million people participated in the May Day celebrations in nearly 1000 cites and residential areas throughout Russia.
In France, hundreds of thousands of people took to the street to voice their appeals on pension reform, employment and purchasing power.
Launched by five major labor unions, large groups of demonstrators started to rally at the Republic Square in Paris shortly after noon.
Several political parties joined the march. Many foreign descendents held the flags of their home countries and raised banners declaring, "Global Workers United."
French media said similar demonstrations took place across France, from the northern city of Lille to the southern port city of Marseilles.
In Turkey, more than 300,000 people staged a citywide rally in Istanbul to celebrate the holiday, calling on the government to create more opportunities for jobs.
The rally was organized by different political parties and labor unions, including Turkish Revolutionary Workers Union Confederation, Public Workers Union Confederation, Revolutionary People's Party Workers Movement Party and Education Workers Union.
Istanbul police chief Huseyin Capkin said the authorities had taken security measures to ensure a peaceful environment for the celebrations.
This was the first time a Turkish government had allowed people to commemorate Labor Day in Taksim square in the city center since 1977, when nearly half a million people gathered on the square and unidentified shootings led to chaos that killed 34 people.
The Turkish government's ban of Labor Day gatherings on the Taksim square in the past 32 years had caused increasing tensions between the government and unions.
In Spain, labor unions organized a series of street protests all over the country, venting anger over issues such as unemployment, pensions, social reform and the financial system.
The protests and other activities were staged under the title of "For employment, for rights and the guarantee of our pensions."
Union heads urged reform of the financial system to avoid fiscal fraud and asked for a tax on financial transactions, saying the financial markets should put themselves at the service of Spainsh society.
The unions reiterated their strong opposition to the government's proposals to raise the age of retirement to 67. They also asked EU governments to think twice before applying cutbacks in public spending.
In Finland, thousands of people took part in marches and rallies organized by leftist parties and workers' unions in Helsinki.
They set out from the central railway station and passed through the city's main roads, holding red flags, banners written with their appeals and figures of Karl Marx (1818-1883). They loudly sang the Internationale and ended the march in Hakaniemi Square, where they joined people from different communities for a grand celebration.
Financial crisis-hit Greece was almost paralyzed by a new series of strikes and demonstrations. Labor unions organized marches across the country against austerity measures and the EU-IMF support mechanism for the Greek economy, ending in minor violence in Athens.
According to unconfirmed information, two protesters were slightly injured and police arrested about 20 people.
Tens of thousands of Greek citizens took to the streets of Athens and major cities to protest cutbacks on salaries, raises in taxes, reforms to the pension system and a new package of more harsh measures expected to be announced in the following hours.
In Nepal, the International Labor Day was being marked all over the country with various programs.
Different political parties, their affiliated organizations, trade unions, labor unions from hotel and factories celebrated the May Day as a landmark for the establishment of their rights.
Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal extended his best wishes to all the workers and expressed his belief that this May Day would be successful in establishing the rights of the ordinary people.
Communist Party of Nepal leader Jhalanath Khanal expressed his good wishes for workers, saying all the workers of the world were equal and should therefore unite for their own sake.
Commemorations or demonstrations were also reported in Singapore and Indonesia.
In Africa, workers in Ghana joined their counterparts throughout the world, staging celebrations under the theme: "Consolidating Workers' Solidarity ..."
In Palestine, hundreds of unemployed workers in the Gaza Strip called on Israel to end more than three years of siege.
Witnesses said hundreds of workers rallied near the Erez crossing point between the northern tip of the coastal enclave and Israel. They waved Palestinian flags and raised banners calling on Israel to end the blockade, and the Palestinian rival factions to end their feuds and reunite.
Around 150,000 workers in the Gaza Strip have been unemployed since Israel imposed a tight blockade on the enclave right after the Islamic Hamas movement seized control of it by force in June 2007. The tight Israeli blockade has hit all aspects of life in the impoverished area.
The participants in the rally, which was arranged by left-wing Gaza-based groups, also called on the Hamas government to annul its latest decision to collect extra taxes on cigarettes, fuels and other products. Hamas recently decided to reactivate the taxes law in the Gaza Strip.
The witnesses said Hamas police barred the demonstrators from reaching the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel for fear of clashes with the Israeli army, which was on alert during the demonstration.