updated 5/17/2009 2:33:01 PM ET 2009-05-17T18:33:01

Thousands of Guatemalans gathered for a march to the National Palace on Sunday to demand the president resign over accusations that he ordered a lawyer killed, a scandal threatening the rule of the country's first leftist leader more than 50 years.

Sympathizers of Alvaro Colom staged a counter-demonstration. Many were farmers and workers who have benefited from his social programs.

Colom denies Rodrigo Rosenberg's allegations, which were broadcast posthumously after the attorney was shot to death a week ago. He has dismissed calls for his resignation and asked the FBI and a U.N. panel to investigate the killing.

Thousands of protesters, many of them dressed in white, gathered at the headquarters of the Guatemala City government for a 15-block march to the National Palace. Many were from the middle and upper classes that make up the bulk of opposition to Colom.

"This is a civic movement of Guatemalans who are seeking peace. We are tired of violence, ineptitude and corruption in Guatemala," said Jorge Briz, the president of the country's chamber of commerce.

Rural areas have offered support
At the main Constitution Plaza, thousands of Colom supporters gathered beneath a tarp to listen to music and speeches defending the president. Many were from the impoverished countryside that has been a stronghold of support for the embattled leader.

A recording distributed at Rosenberg's funeral showed him blaming his death on the president and on Cabinet chief Gustavo Alejos, who also proclaims his innocence.

In the video, Rosenberg said officials might want to kill him because he represented businessman Khalil Musa, who was slain in March along with his daughter. The lawyer said Musa, who had been named to the board of the Guatemala's Rural Development Bank, was killed for refusing to get involved in purported illicit transactions at the bank.

The video was shot in the office of journalist Mario David Garcia, who says he tried to persuade Rosenberg to denounce what he knew on the air but ran out of time.

In response to Colom's request, an FBI agent arrived in Guatemala last week to coordinate with local prosecutors and with the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, a U.N. panel set up in 2007 to clean up corruption.

Colom's 2007 election victory gave Guatemala its first leftist leader since Jacobo Arbenz was thrown out of office in 1954 by a CIA-orchestrated coup.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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