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Greece

Anti-austerity general strike cripples public life in Greece

Greece's two largest trade unions have started a 24-hour nationwide walkout to once again protest against austerity measures imposed by the government. The general strike has brought public services to a standstill.

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Greek unions launched a general strike Wednesday in protest at harsh spending cuts the government has been enforcing to secure more bailout tranches from international creditors.

The general strike precedes a planned one-day visit to Greece by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday.

Wednesday's industrial action was directed in particular against Athens' plan to lay off 11,000 public servants this year, with 4,000 state workers already dismissed in recent months.

The walkout left public services and schools shut across the country. Dock workers also stayed at home, leaving tourists stranded at islands because ferries did not operate.

Doctors and nurses at state hospitals also took part in the walkout and pharmacies remained closed.

Anger and frustration

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"Today's strike action is being held for the working class to respond decisively to the measures the government is deciding against workers' rights, unemployment and the abolition of collective wage agreements," said leftist PAME union spokesman Giorgos Pondikos in a statement.

Police said at least 6,000 people took part in an initial demonstration in Athens, with more protest marches and allies scheduled throughout Wednesday.

Repeated income cuts and tax hikes had deepened a six-year recession in Greece, with unemployment standing at a record high 28 percent in the southern eurozone nation.

The government, however, said it saw signs of improvement, with the economy expected to return to growth this year and Athens planning to return to capital markets soon for the first time in four years.

hg/ipj (AP, dpa)

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