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Thousands strike in Athens against austerity as EU and IMF officials arrive

Thousands of demonstrators rallied in central Athens today to protest austerity measures as EU and IMF officials arrived in the city to inspect Greece’s battered finances.

Greek strikes 2012 01 17Enlarge
Greeks fear that a second EU-IMF rescue package will entail further austerity and wage cuts they say they cannot afford. (Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)

Thousands of Greek workers took part in rallies in central Athens today and marched on parliament in protest against austerity measures as European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials arrived in the city to inspect Greece’s battered finances.

Around 10,000 protesters participated in the demonstrations, according to the Associated Press, disrupting public transport and other services. No ferries left from its main ports, and journalist unions began a 48-hour strike.

The rally was largely peaceful, although Greek police said that a plain-clothed officer was beaten and serious injured by a gang of around 30 protesters.

Yesterday, Greece’s private sector creditors warned the government that it urgently needs to break a deadlock in discussions over plans to cut the country’s debt if a default is to be avoided, Reuters reported.

Talks between the government and the committee representing Greece’s creditors over a bond swap deal, which were suspended on Friday to allow time for “reflection”, will resume tomorrow, CNN reported.

More from GlobalPost: Greek debt talks halted for 'reflection'

While EU, IMF and European Central Bank (ECB) officials are attempting to put together a second rescue package for Greece worth $166 billion, the government is trying to convince private holders of Greek debt to take a voluntary haircut of 50%, writing off half of the value of Greek bonds in exchange for a combination of cash and fresh bonds.

Achieving consensus on the bond swap is a precondition for the second bailout to go through. But ordinary Greeks fear that the second package will entail further austerity and wage cuts which they say they cannot afford, according to the Associated Press.

However, strikes and protests are unlikely to alter the government’s planned austerity measures, and Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos has vowed to do whatever is necessary to avoid a disorderly default, Reuters report.

More from GlobalPost: Merkel warns Greece on second bailout

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/business-tech/120117/thousands-strike-athens-against-austerity-eu-and-imf-officials