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Greek police on alert as protesters "warm up" for Merkel visit

10-08-2012 22:25 BJT

ATHENS, Oct. 8 (Xinhua) -- Greek authorities adopted unprecedented security measures in Athens on Monday, with police forces put on alert, as anti-austerity protesters were "warming up" for German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit on Tuesday.

Greek police announced on Monday noon a ban on all gatherings in central districts of Athens close to the president's and the prime minister's offices where meetings will be held, the German embassy and German-affiliated buildings throughout Tuesday "to safeguard public order."

Several subway stations and avenues across the city center will remain closed.

Similar draconian measures have not been taken in Athens since 1999, when the then-U.S. President Bill Clinton visited the country.

The two rallies in front of the parliament building and another central square organized by the umbrella trade unions of private and public sector employees GSEE and ADEDY and Left opposition parties have not been banned.

However, approximately 7,000 police officers, including snipers, will be deployed across the city to prevent any violent incidents.

Merkel is due to visit Greecefor the first time since the start of the Greek debt crisisalmost three years ago upon an invitation from Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to discuss the Greek and European crisis.

The German leader is singled out by several Greek struggling citizens for the "tough stance" of international creditors towards Greece.

Since 2010, the debt-crippled Greece has implemented a harsh austerity program under bailout deals with the European Unionand the International Monetary Fund in return of vital multi-billion-euro loans to stave off a chaotic default and possible exit from the eurozone.

Painful cuts on salaries, pensions and tax increases have fuelled deep recession and protests. On Monday noon, hundreds of pensioners marched in central Athens to the EU offices, chanting anti-austerity slogans and briefly scuffling with anti-riot police.

In the meantime, 18 members of Greece's electricity workers union were charged for the brief takeover of the offices of the Public Power Company (DEI) on Sunday night as part of anti-austerity mobilizations.

Their union has warned with rolling 48-hour strikes when a new package of austerity measures will be tabled before parliament in coming weeks.

Later on Monday evening, GSEE and ADEDY are scheduled to hold another anti-austerity protest on Syntagma square in front of the parliament building and the finance ministry.

Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras will not be hearing anti-austerity slogans on Monday. He is participating in a Eurogroup meeting in Luxemburg to outline the set of fresh 13.5 billion-euro (17.5 billion U.S. dollars) austerity policies planned for 2013-2014 in order to secure further international funding for Athens.

According to Greek media reports, following month-long negotiations with auditors of lenders in Athens, a final deal on the package is close, so that the upcoming EU summit on Oct. 18 will clear the release of a new tranche of rescue loans to Greece. Without it, the country could go bankrupt by December.

Editor:James |Source: Xinhua

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