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Thousand of Greeks in anti-austerity strike

ATHENS -- Tens of thousands of Greeks took to the streets of Athens yesterday as part of a nationwide strike against austerity that has confined ferries to ports, shut schools and left hospitals with only emergency staff.

Beating drums, blowing whistles and chanting "Robbers, robbers!" more than 60,000 people angry about wage cuts and tax rises marched to parliament in the biggest protest for months over austerity policies required by international lenders.

In the capital, riot police fired tear gas at hooded youths hurling rocks and bottles during a demonstration, mostly of students and pensioners.

The two biggest labor unions brought much of Greece to a standstill with a 24-hour protest against policies they say deepen the hardship of people struggling in the country's worst peacetime downturn.

Representing 2.5 million workers, the unions have gone on strike repeatedly since a debt crisis erupted in late 2009, testing the government's will to impose the painful conditions of an international bailout in the face of growing public anger.

"Today's strike is a new effort to get rid of the bailout deal and those who take advantage of the people and bring only misery," said Ilias Iliopoulos, secretary-general of the ADEDY public sector union, which organized the walkout along with private sector union GSEE. "A social explosion is very near." -- Reuters

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