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Greeks protest ahead of EU bailout vote (VIDEO)

Demonstrators in Greece protest against austerity measures on the eve of talks in Brussels on a $171 billion bailout deal.

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Members of the Special Police Forces are seen during the demonstration against the new austerity measures in Syntagma Square on Feb. 12, 2012 in Athens, Greece. (Vladimir Rys/Getty Images)

Several thousand Greeks demonstrated on Sunday against harsh austerity measures on the eve of talks in Brussels on a $171 billion bailout deal to avert bankruptcy, Reuters reported.

According to the news agency, riot police shielded the national assembly, bracing against a possible repeat of last week's riots in which buildings were looted and torched across downtown Athens.

About 3,000 demonstrators massed on the capital's central Syntagma square in what turned out to be relatively peaceful protests.

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Athens hopes euro zone finance ministers will vote in favor of a bailout package on Monday funded by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

If approved, it will be Greece's second rescue package since 2010.

The Greek government said Prime Minister Lucas Papademos arrived in Brussels ahead of Monday's "crucial" meeting, along with finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos partly because Papademos might need to make some last-minute decision, Reuters reported.

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The threat of Greece's economic collapse and possible exit from the euro has European officials concerned, Bloomberg reported.

“I don’t think there will be a majority to go down any other avenue” than a Greek bailout, Austrian Finance Minister Maria Fekter told state broadcaster ORF over the weekend.

Fekter said “it looks like” the ministers will reach an agreement.

The Wall Street Journal said the euro's direction this week "could hinge" on the outcome of the Brussels meeting.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/120219/greeks-protest-ahead-eu-bailout-vote