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Greek PM, party leaders urge lawmakers to support austerity deal

(Xinhua)

10:35, February 12, 2012

ATHENS, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and coalition government party leaders urged on Saturday lawmakers to support an austerity rescue deal in a crucial parliamentary vote on Sunday to avoid a catastrophic default in March.

"We are a breath away from zero point. The Greek parliament is asked to resume a historic responsibility..A disorderly default would throw the country in a catastrophic adventure. It would create conditions of uncontrolled economic chaos and social eruption," said Papademos in a dramatic televised address to the nation on Saturday evening.

Describing the disastrous consequences, such as shortages in fuel and medicines, pause in the payments of pensions and mass closures of businesses, he warned of a chaotic collapse in living standards and an exit from the euro zone.

The appeal was made as an increasing number of deputies warned to vote down the austerity package and labor unions continued mobilizations on a second day of a general strike with rallies in front of the parliament in central Athens and major cities across the country.

Earlier on Saturday, former Prime Minister and socialist PASOK party head George Papandreou and conservative New Democracy party leader Antonis Samaras, asked their parliamentary groups to back the harsh terms of the 130 billion euro (171.43 billion U.S. dollars) bailout loans agreement reached with EU/International Monetary Fund creditors last week.

Defending the choice to implement the new round of painful spending cuts that has already hit hard the average Greek household over the past two years, they also warned that otherwise Greece faces chaotic consequences.

Following the resignations of six ministers since Thursday over the fresh wages and pension cuts and the warnings of dozens of MPs that they will reject the deal, they imposed party discipline.

Despite the dissent, local political analysts expect that the measures will pass the parliament, since the interim coalition administration still holds a wide majority, even though the rightist Popular Orthodox Rally (Laos) party, the smallest partner backing the government since November, announced that its deputies will cast negative votes.

The draft bill that cleared a cabinet meeting on Friday night and is currently debated at the assembly, includes also a plan to restructure the Greek sovereign debt under a deal with private creditors to make it sustainable in the context of efforts to resolve the debt crisis that threatens the entire euro zone with repercussions.

The European Union and IMF have asked clear commitments from the Greek government that they will implement the measures, before releasing the second aid package since 2010.

Without it Greece faces financial meltdown on March 20, since it would fail to meet a 14.5 billion euros (19.12 billion U.S. dollars) debt repayment.

Thousands protesters who gathered at Syntagma square in Athens once again on Saturday called MPs to reject the deal, opting for "an open bankruptcy than a slow death amidst endless austerity," as written on banners waved in front of the parliament building.

The two umbrella unions of private and public sector workers GSEE and ADEDY which staged the protests, called people to return to the square on Sunday evening, ahead of the vote in the assembly.

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