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General Strike Pressures Greek Government


Violence and turmoil continue in Greece where unions staged a general strike Wednesday in protest against the government's economic policies. The strike had been scheduled before the riots that erupted late last week after the death of a 15-year-old who was hit by a police bullet.

Thousands of marchers turned out in central Athens to protest the government's economic policies, unemployment and general discontent with the current administration.

Some demonstrators threw home-made fire bombs and rocks at the police lines, while others chanted slogans such as "Down with the government."

This strike shut Greece down - nearly everything was closed, from banks and shops to airports and schools. The powerful Greek workers unions that called this action are demanding more social spending and an increase in wages and pensions.

Many people in Greece have complained that since the country adopted the Euro currency, living standards have dropped and prices increased.

There is also widespread discontent about high levels of immigration from bordering countries and spiraling crime.

This national strike follows four days of violence sparked by the killing of a teenager by police on Saturday - that incident has caused unprecedented waves of violence and rioting to erupt across the southern European country.

Despite coming under fire from all sides, Greece's embattled prime minister has vowed to restore order in the country. He has also pledged state help for the thousands of businesses that were destroyed during the riots - some shops and offices were completely gutted by fire.

But such assurances and promises are too little, too late says opposition spokesman George Papacostandiniou of the PASOK party, he thinks the government has little chance of surviving the current crisis.

"I think the government is in a difficult position; it has been for some time now," he said. "The fact that Greeks for the last few years have been seeing public investments slashed, expenditure on health and education cut back. It is in trouble because inequalities are growing and it is in trouble because a string of corruption scandals at the highest levels of government that has completely eroded confidence."

In a separate development, a lawyer representing the police officer who fired the shot that killed the teenager on Saturday said ballistics tests on the fatal bullet showed the death was probably an accident and caused by the bullet ricocheting from a wall. But this new information seems to have done little to calm the violence, which is now in its fifth day.

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