Greek labor unions protest over austerity measures and military intervention in Libya

14:16, March 23, 2011      

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Demonstrators protest against NATO's military operation in Libya in the center of Athens, capital of Greece, March 22, 2011. The demonstration was organized by labor unions and Left-wing parties. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)

Greek labor unions and left-wing activists marched in the center of Athens on Tuesday afternoon protesting over government austerity measures to tackle the acute debt crisis and military operations launched against Libya.

Hundreds of demonstrators reached the EU headquarters in Greece and U.S. embassy in Athens chanting slogans such as "Give funds to schools and hospitals, not wars" and "Do not attack Libya, close down military bases in Souda," in a reference to installations on the southern Greece island of Crete which are used by Western forces for the ongoing Libya operations.

While the protesters expressed "solidarity to Arab revolutions, " Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou briefed the Greek parliament on the latest developments in the northern African country and Greek participation in support operations of EU and NATO allies, which launched several rounds of airstrikes on Libya following a UN Security Council resolution to enforce a no-fly zone and protect the Libyan civilians.

The supportive role of Greece in operations under way stems from respect to international law, boosts efforts to avoid bloodshed and a new major influx of immigrants to Europe, and serves democratic developments in the wider area and Greek national interests, argued Papandreou, while opposition parties voiced strong criticism.

As Papandreou departs for the coming EU summit in Brussels on March 24-25, demonstrators denounced the policies of the Greek and EU governments in the wake of the sovereign debt crisis that erupted last year.

"The competitiveness pact and harsh austerity policies condemn peoples across Europe to poverty," said representatives of the two umbrella labor unions of private and public sector employees, GSEE and ADEDY, while addressing the rally in front of the old parliament building in Athens.

Greece narrowly escaped default last spring under the heavy debt burden of more than 300 billion euros (426.33 billion U.S. dollars). The country secured a three-year aid package by EU partners and the International Monetary Fund in exchange for austerity measures and structural reforms.

Source: Xinhua
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