Turkish officials, scrambling to contain tensions, have delivered more conciliatory messages to thousands of protesters denouncing what they say is the government's increasingly authoritarian rule and its meddling in lifestyles.

The efforts come ahead of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's return on Thursday from a four-day North African tour. All eyes will be on him to see if he also softens his line.

Huseyin Celik, deputy leader of Erdogan's Islamic-rooted party, said the government is sympathetic to secular-minded Turks 'concerns and is prepared to take steps to "eliminate" their fears.

He has also called on party supporters not to come out in force to greet Erdogan when he arrives.

A human rights group says "several people" were hospitalized late Wednesday when police used tear gas to disperse protests in Ankara.