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Greek Parliament Discusses Austerity Plan

Antiausterity banners hang outside the Parthenon Temple in Athens on February 11.
The Greek parliament is debating a new austerity plan, which Athens hopes will secure a 130-billion-euro ($171 billion) bailout from the EU that the government needs to repay its debts.

The new austerity package, approved by the Greek cabinet late on February 10 in an emergency meeting, is to be voted upon by the parliament on Feb. 13.

Leaders of several key political parties have called on legislators to back the new package.

"I'm calling on all of you to think about this very seriously," former Prime Minister and leader of the socialist Pasok Party George Papandreou told parliament.

"I am sure that we will stop to realize the historical responsibilities that we have. And once more we will take the right decisions for the sake of the country."

After the austerity package was announced, protestors immediately gathered at the parliament building early on February 11 to voice their opposition to the initiative.

"This [package] should not pass," pensioner Yanni Katsaougos told Reuters at the protest.

"They should not have agreed to this in the first place, to any of these memorandums. They voted on the first agreement without even reading it.

"They are totally irresponsible. It is a totally irresponsible state. One minister said he had never even read the agreement. How can that be possible?"

Greece's eurozone partners explicitly told Athens this week that it must agree to more austerity measures in order to secure the release of further loans under the 130-billion-euro ($171 billion) bailout, which has been pending since October.

The EU asked Greece to identify 325 million euros of deeper spending cuts and get clear commitments from the leaders of the main political parties that the reforms will be implemented.

During the emergency cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos told ministers that the measures were vital to avoid a default that would cost Greece its place in the eurozone and provoke "economic chaos and social explosion."

He convened the emergency cabinet meeting after six ministers and deputy ministers earlier on February 10 resigned over the harsh new cuts, which include firing thousands of civil servants and slashing the minimum wage.

The EU bailout is essential to stave off bankruptcy on March 20, when Athens must repay nearly 14.5 billion euros in maturing debt.

But the proposed new austerity measures have sparked large protests, including two general strikes this week.

On February 10, clashes erupted on the sidelines of union demonstrations against 15,000 civil service layoffs and cuts in wages and pensions.

Youths in hoods and motorcycle helmets broke up masonry around central Syntagma Square and hurled stones at police, who responded with bursts of tear gas.

At least 10 people were injured including eight police officers and six arrests were made, a police source said.

With agency reports
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