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Greece

Police evict strikers from Athens depot, protest widens

Greek police have stormed a subway train depot to disperse striking staff. About 90 had been staging an overnight sit-in after the government invoked emergency law. Unions planned wider transport standstills for Friday.

Some 300 police entered the Greek capital's metro train depot before dawn on Friday. Police detained a number of people as the strike entered its ninth day, further disrupting traffic in the Greek capital.

Police broke through gates and removed dozens of strikers as well as blocking roads leading to the depot in western Athens to prevent other protestors from reaching the depot.

The government of Prime Minister Antonio Samaras, who heads a three-party coalition, had accused strikers of showing contempt for a court order issued early in the week which called for a return to work.

"I can allow no exceptions," Samaras said Thursday, referring to emergency legislation originally intended for natural disasters or times of war.

Government officials distributed notifications to all metro workers asking them to return to work. Ignoring the order could lead to arrest and jail terms of between three months to five years, the government said.

Workers oppose government plans to reduce their pay under austerities aimed at unifying wages for civil servants. The intended cuts stem from reforms tied a massive loan bailout by the EU and international lenders.

General standstill called

Trade unions reacted to Samara's threat by calling a general transport standstill on Friday. Workers with the capital's other tram and bus services joined Friday's protest, intensifying transport disruptions.

Radio reports said approximately 50 metro workers had returned to work on Friday, far less than the number needed to put the transport system back into operation.

Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told NET state television that he expected the metro to be operational by the weekend.

"When labor action is judged illegal and abusive, the law has to be implemented," he added.

Public frustration has grown against the strike which affects more than half a million commuters in the city of 5 million people.

ipj/hc (dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)