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Thousands join pro-government rally in Slovenia

Ali Zerdin, Asosciated Press

Slovenian government supporters take part in a political rally in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Friday, Feb. 8, 2013. Several thousand gathered to show support for troubled Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa and his government. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) -- Thousands of people joined a rally Friday in support of Slovenia's embattled center-right government, amid mounting political tensions in the small, economically troubled European Union country struggling to avoid an international bailout.

More than 5,000 flag-waving pro-government activists gathered at a central square in the capital, Ljubljana, only hours ahead of an anti-government protest planned for later Friday. There were fears of clashes, but no incidents have been reported.

Slovenia's government has been on the brink of collapse after two junior partners left the ruling coalition over corruption allegations against Prime Minister Janez Jansa. An anti-graft watchdog has accused him of failing to declare more than €200,000 ($265,000) in private assets, which he has denied.

Jansa has refused to step down insisting that an election now would hurt Slovenia's efforts to pull out of an economic and financial downturn that is linked to the EU debt crisis. Jansa's government has launched reforms and an austerity package it says would help the country avoid seeking EU help.

But Jansa's measures have been met with massive protests and strikes that have sometimes turned violent. The anti-government protesters insist that the cost-cutting is hurting the middle class and the poor but not the so-called "corrupt elite."

In a video address broadcast during Friday's rally, Jansa said he was the victim of "lies, deceit and propaganda" by unidentified left-leaning groups, which had "robbed our country" in the past. His supporters unveiled a huge Slovenian flag and played national folk songs during the rally.

"We are here because we care about this country," said 33-year-old Franc Mihar who came to the rally from the town of Kranj.