Clashes have broken out at an anti-austerity rally by thousands of protesters outside Parliament in Athens.

Riot police used pepper spray and tear gas on Wednesday night to fight back youths in the crowd who were hurling Molotov cocktails and rocks at police.

Police said about 12,500 people were at the rally at Syntagma Square.

The clashes broke out just as lawmakers were starting to debate an austerity bill that includes consumer tax increases and pension reforms.

Al Jazeera's Mohammed Jamjoom, reporting from Athens, said the protesters chanted anti-austerity slogans, and engaged in running battles with police.

"A lot of anger just boiled over," he said, adding that riot police are still out in force outside the parliament.  

By about midnight, however, the crowds had largely dispersed and our correspondent said the clashes had stopped.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who has faced strident opposition to the bill from his own radical left Syriza party, says it's the best possible deal he could get to prevent Greece from being forced out of Europe's joint euro currency.

Al Jazeera Curated Earlier on Wednesday, former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has told parliament that Greece's rescue deal was like the Versailles treaty, which forced crushing reparations on Germany after World War One and led to the rise of Adolf Hitler.

"'The powerful demanded that the losers accept terms they had no right to demand. The losers accepted commitments they had no right to accept'. These were the words of John Maynard Keynes on the Versailles Treaty. What we are confronted with is a new Versailles Treaty," the self-avowed "erratic Marxist" told fellow lawmakers ahead of a vote on the rescue deal on Wednesday.

Varoufakis, whose fiery language alienated many of his euro zone colleagues during five months of negotiations, resigned after Greeks rejected bailout terms in a July 5 referendum in order to facilitate talks. A deal was reached one week later.

He did not say if he would vote against it, or if he would even attend the key vote expected after midnight . Last week he skipped a vote on giving Tsipras a mandate to negotiate a deal.



Tsipras, who has faced strident opposition to the bill from his own radical left Syriza party, says it is the best possible deal he could get to prevent Greece from being forced out of Europe's joint euro currency.

Up to forty Syriza lawmakers are expected to vote against the deal that requires parliament to agree to a raft of tax hikes and pension reforms if bailout talks with international lenders are to start. 

The deal is all but certain to pass because pro-EU opposition lawmakers will vote for it, but Tsipras's leadership could be seriously weakened if he has to rely on other parties.

Varoufakis noted in a blog on Tuesday that he had warned of the risks of "a new Versailles treaty" when the first Greek bailout was negotiated in 2010.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was asked at a news conference after Monday's accord whether it was not reminiscent of the 1919 Versailles treaty reparations.

She tried to make light of the question, saying she would not take part in historical comparisons, "especially when I didn't make them myself".

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies