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Greece's austerity plan hit by strikes, clashes

A police officer tries try to dodge a gasoline bomb during clashes in central Athens on Thursday. Police confronted rioting youths as thousands of people demonstrated during a nationwide strike.

Associated Press

A police officer tries try to dodge a gasoline bomb during clashes in central Athens on Thursday. Police confronted rioting youths as thousands of people demonstrated during a nationwide strike.

ATHENS, Greece — Clashes between riot police and rock-throwing, masked youths broke out during a demonstration Thursday in central Athens by tens of thousands of striking workers protesting austerity measures that the Greek government has said it has no choice but to implement.

The debt-ridden country is under intense pressure from both markets and the European Union to reduce its deficit from 12.7 percent of economic output in 2009 to 8.7 percent this year. Last week, Greece introduced a harsh $6.5 billion austerity package that cut civil servants' wages, froze pensions and raised consumer taxes.

The new cutbacks, added to a previous $15.24 billion austerity plan, sparked a wave of strikes and protests from labor unions whose reaction to the initial measures had been muted. Thursday's 24-hour general strike, the second in about a week, grounded airline flights, halted public transport, suspended news broadcasts and left public hospitals working with emergency staff.

An unofficial police estimate put the Athens crowd at about 20,000; organizers said the actual number was much higher.

Clashes broke out soon after the march began, with riot police firing tear gas and stun grenades to disperse masked youths who smashed pavement, marble steps and building facades to use as projectiles to throw at police.

Police said 13 officers were injured and 16 people were detained, nine of whom were arrested.

Limited clashes also broke out during a demonstration by about 14,000 people in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

Greece's austerity plan hit by strikes, clashes 03/11/10 [Last modified: Thursday, March 11, 2010 11:18pm]

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