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February 10, 2012

Greek Leaders Push For Cuts Amid Backlash

Greek leaders are issuing new pleas - and warnings - ahead of a crucial vote that will determine whether Europe comes to the rescue with another bailout loan.

Socialist Pasok party leader George Papandreou and New Democracy Party leader Antonis Samaras Saturday urged lawmakers to back the latest round of budget cuts, saying there is no other viable choice.

Papandreou warned any failure to pass the austerity measures would lead to the country's doom.

"We are talking about chaos, my dear colleagues," said Papandreou.  "We are talking about the most dangerous and most painful consequences for the country and specifically for those that don't have any money - for the unemployed , for the middle- and lower- income classes.''

Samaras warned his party's members campaign-style politicking will not be tolerated.

"I know that very well around you there are some ambitious politicians who are trying to impress with anti-bailout agreement rhetoric. Whoever does this should know that with this irresponsible attempt to act like they are more Catholic than the Pope, they won't succeed in even being candidates [in the next election],'' Samaras said.

The Greek Cabinet approved a draft of the austerity bill late Friday and the full parliament is expected to vote Sunday.  European Union members have demanded the additional cuts in exchange for a new $172 billion bailout loan.

Greece must pay back $19 billion in debts next month. Prime Minister Lucas Papademos told his Cabinet Friday that Greece will descend into "a disastrous adventure" if it is unable to repay its creditors.

Despite the dire warnings, thousands of Greeks have taken to the streets, at times clashing with police, to protests the budget cuts.  

Several thousand gathered outside the parliament building Saturday, calling on lawmakers to reject the EU's demands.

Protesters also turned out in the thousands in the Greek city of Thessaloniki.  Transportation ground to halt in Athens and around the country, as workers continued their strike for a second day.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.