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Greek Opposition Leader Papandreou Blames Government for Riots


The main opposition leader in Greece blames the government for the violent street protests in Athens and other parts of the country, following the police killing of a teenager. Nathan Morley spoke with the opposition leader and has this report.

In a VOA interview, opposition leader George deplored the violence.

"The types of problem, which Greece is facing right now are such that one could have expected that there would be a reaction from society and particularly from the youth," said George Papandreou. "Obviously what we are all shocked about is the violence, the extent of violence - but the fact there is a deeper crisis where the youth feel a deepening sense of inequality, social inequalities, lack of possible employment, a sense of injustice - a sense of corruption at the highest levels of government - these things have all put fuel to the fires of rage of the youth in Greece."

Greece has been gripped for eight days by protests against the police shooting, which have succeeded in uniting mainstream and radical youth. Papandreou, who leads the opposition Socialists, said the primary concern of the people of Greece now was the return of the rule of law.

Though the violence is tied to the shooting of the teenager, students have also been protesting the economic situation and demanding reform of the state education system.

Papandreou, who has called for new elections, said his focus would be on restoring confidence in government.

"It would be to restore confidence, confidence in the running of government, by first of all wiping out corruption at the highest levels, bringing in transparency and at the same time looking deeply into some of the social problems we have and creating a sense that we are in solidarity with many parts of society that are now suffering because of the economic crisis and the widening rift of inequality between the rich and the poor," he said.

Rising unemployment is particularly high among the 15 to 24-year-old age group, and many in Greece have complained about a rapid decrease in living standards.

Demonstrators have been demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, and polls show widespread disapproval of the government's handling of the riots. Karamanlis, whose party has a one-seat majority in Parliament, has rejected calls to resign or hold early elections.

On Saturday, violence reignited in Athens for an eighth day, with protesters firebombing a police station just moments after a peaceful vigil held in honor of the teenage boy.

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