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Developer tears down further stretch of Berlin Wall

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A property developer removed more of the Berlin Wall on Wednesday in a surprise dawn move amid a bitter running protest over the dismantling of the once-detested Cold War division.

Four segments were taken down from around 5:00 am (0400 GMT) from the Wall's longest surviving stretch, creating a gap of more than six metres (20 feet). But the property company said it was only a temporary measure.

Some 250 police were dispatched to the site.

Opponents have organised a rally for Thursday after several protests along the 1.3-kilometre (nearly one mile) stretch of Wall, known as the East Side Gallery, since the beginning of March when a first panel was taken away.

Investment group Living Bauhaus, which is building a residential development behind the Wall, said Wednesday's removal was temporary to provide access to the construction site.

"The parts of the Wall, 6.10 metres altogether, are subsequently to be inserted again into the Berlin Wall that is still standing," it said in a written statement.

It had been necessary because talks with local officials and investors in neighbouring plots of land had provided "no realisable alternative" after four weeks, it added.

US singer and actor David Hasselhoff, who gave a legendary New Year's Eve performance of his song "Looking for Freedom" at the Wall after its fall in 1989, has joined protesters.

Since 1990, the outdoor gallery has been covered in brightly coloured graffiti murals, including the famous "Fraternal Kiss" depicting Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and East Germany's Erich Honecker locked in an embrace.

The 3.6-metre high stretch is a tourist magnet and a must-see for history buffs retracing the dark chapter of Berlin's 28-year-long division who are otherwise hard pressed to find remnants of the Wall to photograph.

Developers have previously said that plans to provide access to a high-rise residential development along the banks of the Spree river as well as access to a planned bridge required a 22-metre segment of the Wall to be dismantled.

A meeting between the property company and city authorities on Tuesday about possible alternative sites for the project proved fruitless.

Lutz Leichsenring, of Clubcommission Berlin, one of the protest's organisers, said that although a solution by finding replacement land was "within reach", a "serious readiness" by the Berlin government to correct past urban development mistakes was lacking.

Thrown up in 1961, the Wall stretched 155 kilometres (96 miles) and divided Berlin until 1989, but today only around three kilometres of it still stand.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130327/developer-tears-down-further-stretch-berlin-wall-0