2ND LEAD: Clashes in Greece ahead of key austerity vote
ATHENS, Feb 12, 2012 (Menafn - dpa - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Greek riot police clashed with black-hooded anarchists carrying clubs and petrol bombs Sunday as more than 55,000 demonstrators marched on parliament ahead of a key vote on a new round of austerity measures.
The youths hurled stones at riot police, who responded by firing tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd. Several injuries were reported.
While most of the protesters were peaceful, dpa reporters saw several hundred of them fighting alongside the anarchists at various locations around the city centre.
Unlike on previous occasions, the anarchists were applauded by other demonstrators as they made their way towards the parliament building in Syntagma Square.
Police officials told dpa that 40,000 protesters were near the parliament building, while a further 15,000 from a communist-affiliated trade union made their way towards the building.
Giorgos Makris, a 44-year-old mathematics teacher, said he was not going to back-down and would continue to fight against the harsh new measures, which were widely expected to be approved in a late parliamentary vote.
"I am fighting for my future which they have destroyed by cutting my salary by 20 per cent," he said.
Black smoke filled the air around the square as protesters set fire to garbage cans near the Economy Ministry and smashed shop windows.
Police officials said several officers were injured and taken to hospital. Ambulances also picked up at least two injured people among the protesters.
The riots took place as Greek politicians were set to hold a key vote on a new round of austerity measures, with Germany piling pressure on them to finally deliver on their promise to put the country's finances in order.
Parliament was widely expected to approve the measures -- along with a bond-swap deal with private creditors allowing Greece to shave off at least 100 billion euros (131 billion dollars) of its 360-billion euro debt -- in the vote, scheduled for 2200 GMT.
Ahead of the vote, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Greeks should be aware of the fact that there was a need for dramatic change.
"That's why now promises are not enough anymore," Schaeuble said in remarks carried by the newspaper Welt am Sonntag.
Greece will default on its debt on March 20 if it fails to secure the 130-billion-euro bailout from the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary fund.
The austerity measures include a 22-per-cent cut in the minimum wage, public sector layoffs and pension cuts.
The two biggest parties in the coalition government, the Socialist PASOK and the conservative New Democracy party, have 236 deputies in the 300-member parliament. Only about 13 conservatives and seven Socialists have declared they will vote against the legislation.
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