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Security tight for royal wedding

bullet-proof corridor
A bullet-proof glass corridor has been built outside the Nieuwe Kerk  

AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands -- A massive security operation is in force in Amsterdam for the wedding of the Dutch crown prince and his Argentinian bride.

Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, the 34-year-old son of Queen Beatrix and Prince Claus, married Maxima Zorreguieta, a 30-year-old economist from Argentina, on Saturday.

Central Amsterdam has been declared a high security zone and put under emergency regulations, giving police the authority to freely enter and search homes.

Helicopters circled in the sky and police boats patrolled the city's canals.

The military has closed the airspace over the city centre, and police have erected 11 kilometres (seven miles) of fences and barricades to control the tens of thousands of spectators expected on Saturday.

Impressive guest list for royal wedding 

Private cars and public trams have been diverted. Bicycles -- Amsterdam's most popular mode of transportation -- have been barred from the security zone.

Parking racks were removed days ago, and police armed with metal clippers detached bikes locked onto railings and took them to a central depot.

Security cameras at key areas are feeding video footage into a command bunker under City Hall.

Marksmen are stationed on rooftops, and rubbish bins that could conceal explosives have been removed.

A 50-metre bulletproof glass corridor has been constructed to connect the Royal Palace on Dam Square with the Nieuwe Kerk, the 15th-Century church where the couple's civil vows will receive the blessings of the Dutch Reformed Church.

Celebrations begin

The first formal celebration, a glittering royal ball, was held on Thursday night.

On Friday, events took a more relaxed air with an afternoon concert by the royal orchestra and an evening pop concert and party for 50,000 invited guests at the Amsterdam Arena, home of the Ajax soccer team.

Banners celebrating the marriage adorn the streets of Amsterdam  

The official guest list named at least 70 kings, queens, grand dukes, princes, counts and other nobles. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former South African President Nelson Mandela are among the guests.

Maxima -- as she is commonly known -- has been widely embraced by the Dutch public. "We Love You Maxima," read one two-story-tall banner draped over a department store.

However, there was a small demonstration in Amsterdam on Friday against the prospective bride, whose father Jorge Zorreguieta served in the government of Argentine dictator Jorge Videla.

One man hung a banner from his window saying: "Argentina 30,000 Victims Don't Forget." Dutch flags flew from the floor above.

Zorreguieta agreed at the time of the engagement last March not to attend the wedding, and is expected instead to watch in, with his wife, on television.


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