News / Europe

Greek Police Clash with Austerity Protesters

Riot police scuffle with a female protester as they try to open the avenue outside the Greek Parliament during a heavy rain in Athens, February 7, 2012.
Riot police scuffle with a female protester as they try to open the avenue outside the Greek Parliament during a heavy rain in Athens, February 7, 2012.

Greek police clashed Tuesday with some of the thousands of striking workers in Athens protesting the latest austerity measures the government is seeking to impose to meet the demands of the country's international creditors.

Some demonstrators charged the steps of parliament and threw rocks at police, who fired tear gas at the protesters and hit some of them with their batons. A handful of protesters burned a German flag and a Nazi flag in protest of the role Germany, Europe's biggest economic power, has played in demanding Greek economic reforms. The planned day-long general strike, the second this year, disrupted transportation services, closed government services and schools and shut shops.

The protest came as government officials were set to meet later in the day to try again to reach agreement on several austerity measures sought by the country's creditors.

The international lenders have demanded that Greece's three fractious political parties jointly agree to impose new budget cuts. The lenders have said they fear that if there is no uniform consensus, the winner of planned national elections this spring could renege on spending reductions.

Greece said late Monday it would abolish 15,000 government jobs this year, while it is still considering a steep cut in the country's minimum wage and other changes.

The country's main unions and employers have rejected government plans for more wage cuts, saying they have already sustained significant losses with earlier spending cuts and tax increases.

Despite weeks of negotiations, Greece has been unable to complete an agreement with large international financial institutions to cut $130 billion of the country's debt, half the amount it owes them. In addition, the Athens government is seeking to work out details of a new $170 billion bailout, its second in two years, from the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Greece says it needs the debt relief and new funding to avoid defaulting next month on $19 billion of its financial obligations, something analysts say could trigger a worldwide recession. Caretaker Prime Minister Lucas Papademos met through much of the early hours of Tuesday with EU and IMF lenders about the perilous financial condition of Greece, now in its fifth straight year of recession with high unemployment.

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

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