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Greek assembly passes in-principle austerity bill as Athens turns into battlefield


16:51, October 20, 2011

Greek activists clash with police forces in front of the parliament building in Athens on Oct. 19, 2011. The mass rally was organised by the two main labor unions of public and private sector employees in Greece ADEDY and GSEE during a 48-hour general strike ahead of a key parliament vote on new austerity measures. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)

ATHENS, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- The Greek parliament approved on Wednesday evening a fresh austerity draft bill promoted by the government as essential to avert default, as violent protests gripped the heart of Athens, turning the city into a battlefield.

A total of 154 members of the ruling PASOK party in the 300-member parliament voted for the draft bill, while 141 opposition lawmakers voted against. Five lawmakers were absent for Wednesday's vote.

A second and final vote on particularly controversial articles is due on Thursday, when the ruling party's narrow parliament majority would be further contested. At least two "rebel" PASOK party lawmakers have so far threatened to vote against the bill.

"There is no next day without the approval of the bill that paves the way to the negotiation of a viable solution to the Greek debt,"said Greek Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

He made the statement addressing the parliament on Wednesday noon during a debate, pointing to a critical EU summit in Brussels on Sunday over the Greek debt crisis while warning of a potential Greek bankruptcy in November with unpredictable repercussions for the eurozone.

Meanwhile, opposition parties, trade unions and tens of thousands ordinary Athens citizens protested against government austerity measures on Wednesday.

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