Clashes as Greece approves cuts

Greek police and protesters clashed in central Athens on Wednesday as tens of thousands marched against austerity measures.

Clashes as Greece approves cuts

Greek police and protesters clashed in central Athens on Wednesday as tens of thousands marched against austerity measures.

Hours earlier, parliament approved changes and spending cuts that are a condition of a 110-billion-euro ($150-billion) EU/IMF bailout, offered to Greece in exchange for austerity measures.

Striking public and private sector workers had already grounded flights, shut down schools and paralysed public transport and about 40,000 marched through the capital.

Some shouted: "Revolt! Overturn government measures!"

As the march reached parliament, about 200 leftists attacked former conservative minister Kostis Hatzidakis with their fists, stones and sticks, shouting: "Thieves! Shame on you!"

Reuters witnesses said his face was covered in blood as he took shelter in a building. Police said at least 10 people were detained and three injured.

Three cars on Syntagma Square were in flames, while one luxury hotel balcony was on fire after petrol bombs were thrown. Smoke and teargas covered the square and bystanders scrambled frantically to safety.

"MP expelled"

The 300-seat house voted into law measures that cut wages in state-owned bus and railway companies and weakened the power of collective bargaining to allow company-level deals to prevail.

"People have had enough. The anger is so great that nobody can stop it," said Ilias Iliopoulos, general secretary at the civil servants' union ADEDY, adding the march was bigger than one in May, when 50,000 participated.

"Today is a warning for what will follow after the holidays," he added.

Ships remained docked at ports, hospitals were working on skeleton staff and ministries shut down as civil servants and private sector workers stayed away.

With public transport crippled, major roads to the centre of Athens were jammed as motorists struggled to get to work. With journalists joining the strike, there was no news on TV or radio stations.

Prime Minister George Papandreou expelled a deputy from his parliamentary team for failing to back the government in the vote. But his party still commands a comfortable 156 votes, with more belt-tightening ahead in the 2011 budget next week.

With a parliamentary majority and future bailout instalments at stake, the ruling socialists are unlikely to change course althought their popularity is waning amid a deepening recession.

"I can't sit on the sofa and watch my country go down. I'm here to shout and struggle. I'm a school teacher and many of my students' parents are jobless," said Anastasia Antonopoulou, 50, who travelled from the Ionian island of Zakynthos for the march.

Workers were also due to rally against austerity in other countries on Wednesday, including Spain and Belgium, ahead of a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.


Agencies

Last Mod: 15 Aralık 2010, 16:52
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