Greeks protest austerity cuts before vote

Thousands take to Athens streets

Striking Greek workers denounced a new wave of austerity on Friday as an imposition too far by Europe and the IMF.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told the nation it faced a stark choice between sacrifices inside the euro area and bigger sacrifices outside.

Police fired teargas at black-masked protesters who threw petrol bombs, stones and bottles in central Athens at the start of a 48-hour general strike against planned pay and job cuts. But street protests were relatively small and mostly peaceful.

The biggest police trade union said it would issue arrest warrants for Greece’s international lenders for subverting democracy, and refused to “fight against our brothers.” A daily newspaper depicted German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a Nazi uniform with a swastika armband.

As public rage simmered, the leader of the far-right LAOS movement, the smallest of three parties backing Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, said he would not vote for the harsh austerity program in a crucial parliament vote due on Sunday or Monday.

“Greeks cannot be hostages and serfs,” LAOS leader George Karatzaferis told a news conference. “We were robbed of our dignity, we were humiliated. I can’t take this. I won’t allow it, no matter how hungry I am.

“Germany decides for Europe because it has a fat wallet and with that fat wallet it rules over the lives of all the southern countries.”

His party has 15 deputies in the 300-seat parliament, dominated by the socialist PASOK and conservative New Democracy parties, which both support the Papademos government.

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