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Greek police, protesters clash over new austerity measures

Police and protesters clashed in the Greek capital, Athens, on Thursday as lawmakers approved new unpopular austerity measures, including pension cuts and tax hikes.

Police fired tear gas at angry demonstrators protesting outside the parliament over the new austerity measures.

As the measures were approved, just before midnight, some protesters hurled petrol bombs and firecrackers at police guarding the parliament.

Police guard the Greek parliament during a protest against new austerity measures, in Athens, May 18, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The leftist government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras hopes that the new measures, four days before euro zone finance ministers meet in Brussels, will satisfy the demands of international lenders and unlock debt relief and a 7.5-billion-euro bailout tranche.

“We deserve and we expect from Monday’s Eurogroup a decision regulating debt relief that will correspond to the sacrifices of the Greek people,” Tsipras said, referring to the meeting of eurozone finance ministers, which is due on Monday.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (2-R) attends a parliamentary session in Athens, May 18, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Athens needs foreign aid to repay its debt maturing in July. Lenders have agreed in principle to debt restructuring, but not on details.

Greece was hit by an economic crisis seven years ago, when it was first forced to seek external financial aid. It has since seen its national output shrink by a quarter.

Austerity policy vs. growth

The new austerity measures have drawn strong condemnation from the opposition, which has accused Tsipras of having failed to bolster the economy.

“We see the great cost of three lost years for the economy and society, as well as significant additional burdens for all Greeks, and especially the weaker ones,” opposition Conservative leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

He said that there was another way for the country to exit the crisis, namely through attracting tourists and investments, instead of the current cuts, which the opposition believes have plunged the ailing economy deeper into recession.

Greece has received about 260 billion euros in bailout aid since 2010 in exchange for reforms and deep spending cuts.

Eurozone finance ministers will on Monday assess Greece’s bailout progress following the parliamentary approval of the reforms.

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