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New anti-austerity strike hits Greece

(Xinhua)

18:50, December 01, 2011

ATHENS, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Greece has been paralyzed again on Thursday, as private and public sector unions held a 24-hour general strike in protest of new austerity measures.

In the seventh general strike of the year, schools and courts shut, train and ferry service ground to a halt and hospitals ran on emergency staff.

Backed by two main labor unions ADEDY and GSEE, strikers will gather in central squares and march peacefully to the parliament to protest wage and pension cuts, tax increases, mass layoffs from the public sector and painful reforms in the labor market which started in 2010 under the previous government.

"We have no option but to reply to unfair and harsh policies with further struggle to protect peoples' right to a life with decency," head of the GSEE Yannis Panagopoulos told local media before the rally.

The strike is the first such test for new technocrat Prime Minister Lucas Papademos since the new coalition interim administration took office last month.

Thousands of police officers have been deployed across Athens, as previous demonstrations were marred by clashes between anti-riot police and anarchists.

Papademos pledged this week to continue the painful measures needed to counter the crisis, as eurozone gave the green light for the release to Greece of the sixth tranche of the European Union (EU)/International Monetary Fund (IMF) 2010 loan package locked since September because of missed deficit-cutting targets and delays in structural reforms.

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