Greece in tough bailout talks amid protests

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Greece in tough bailout talks amid protests

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Demonstrations in Athens against possible further government austerity measures have resulted in more clashes between police and protesters.

It came after new figures revealed that the Greek budget deficit last year was far worse than had been previously thought.

The ruling party’s victory in the weekend’s local elections, and a visit by the country’s international creditors, have fuelled fears that still more belt tightening may be around the corner.

The government has vowed that any additional measures would not see further reforms to wages, pensions and taxes.

That did nothing to reassure demonstrators, heeding calls by left wing groups to defy the state.

The head of the Greek Communist Party (KKE), Aleka Papariga, reminded the crowd of its message after last year’s elections. “There’s a war against people’s rights,” she said, “and people must answer with war”.

Behind closed doors, visiting officials from the IMF, EU and the European Central Bank met government ministers to review the country’s progress in tackling its debt – and to consider the latest request to release bailout funds.

It was a regular meeting but many Greeks are nervous they may demand new sacrifices.

Prime Minister George Papandreou, who later met President Sarkozy in Paris, has ruled out a further restructuring of the Greek debt. That, he said, would be a disaster.