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Europe
Greek MPs pass austerity bill
Parliament approves controversial budget cuts intended to ease the debt crisis.
Last Modified: 06 May 2010 17:08 GMT
Greece's parliament voted a day after violent protests left three bank workers dead [Reuters]

Greece's parliament has voted in favour of an austerity bill proposed by the government to address the country's financial crisis.

The bill, which will pave the way for Greece to receive a joint European Union-IMF emergency loan, was passed with 172 votes in favour and 121 against.

For the bill to become law, it must be approved in a second
vote due later on Thursday.

The vote comes a day after three bank workers died in a petrol bomb attackas protests over the planned austerity measures turned violent.

The bill was passed just as thousands of Greeks gathered outside parliament during the vote in a clear show of anger at the measures, which include salary and pension cuts as well as tax hikes.

The new taxes and government spending cuts have been demanded by the IMF and other European countries before debt-ridden Greece can get the $146bn bailout package of loans to keep it from defaulting.

'Avoid bankruptcy'

Ahead of the vote, the Greek prime minister said the measures were the only way to avoid bankruptcy.

in depth
  Pictures: Greece protests
  Q&A: Greek economic crisis
  Blog: The humiliation of Greece
  Inside Story: A financial bailout for Greece?
  Counting the Cost: Greece is the word
  Videos:
  Greek protests turn deadly
  Greece hit by anti-austerity rally
  Wake-up call for Greek economy
  Fears grow over debt crisis

"The situation today is simple - either we vote and implement the deal or we condemn the country to bankruptcy," Prime Minister George Papandreou told parliament.

Papandreou has defended the measures, which foresee 30 billion euros in savings, mainly from cuts to pensions and wages, saying the government will do everything possible to prevent Greece defaulting.

"The government has the responsibility of implementing the most difficult financial measures ever taken in this country," said George Papaconstantinou, the finance minister.

Greece urgently requires the bailout as it faces a May 19 deadline on a debt it says it cannot repay without new funds.

Barnaby Phillips, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Athens said, that Papandreou kicked out three deputies from the ruling party after they opposed the measures.
 
"For the immediate future, this is the end of the matter and the government is telling the people that EU leaders will deliver a very generous aid package," our correspondent said.

Wednesday's deaths - the first such fatalities in protests in nearly 20 years in Greece - have shocked many people in Greece.

Earlier during the day, Karolos Papoulias, the president of Greece, called on the country to turn back from the "brink of the abyss".

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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