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Greece

Greek lawmakers pass austerity measures

Greek lawmakers have narrowly approved new financial austerity measures. The legislation came as tens of thousands gathered to protest outside parliament.

The measures, passed early Thursday morning, are part of an 18.5 billion euro ($23.6 billion) effort to provide aid and avoid financial collapse.

According to Athanassios Nakos, second deputy speaker of the parliament, the bill narrowly passed with just 153 of 299 lawmakers voting in favor. The legislation includes spending cuts, tax hikes and measures that make it easier to hire and fire workers - all of which will be implemented by 2016.

Protest in Greece

Voting took place despite the absence of the junior ruling party, the Democratic Left, which opposed the bill. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' New Democracy Party and their Socialist PASOK allies joined to approve the measures.

Controversy and unrest erupted inside the parliamentary chambers when some workers temporarily brought proceedings to a halt, by staging a walkout after they discovered their salaries would be cut.

The bill is a precursor to the 2013 budget law, which is expected to be approved on Sunday. The new budget law, if passed, will unlock 31.5 billion euros ($40.2 billion) from the European Union and International Monetary Fund to aid Greek banks and government loan payments.

Thousands protest

Around 100,000 demonstrators braved the pouring rain in Athens and gathered outisde parliament, holding up flags and banners saying "It's them or us!" and "End this disaster!"

Police fired tear gas and water cannon at some of the protestors. It was the first time such measures were taken at an anti-austerity protest in Greece.

Some demonstrators threw petrol bombs and rocks at police, and attempted to break through a barricade and enter parliament.

The protests came amid a two-day public strike that has halted public transportation, closed schools, banks and government offices, and left garbage piling up on the streets.

dr/jr (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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