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Thousands Protest in the Streets in Athens as Greece Rams Through Austerity Package

Under a sea of banners denouncing further wage, pension and job cuts, tens of thousands of protesters chanted against "the occupation" of the country by foreign lenders.

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George Papandreou, the former socialist prime minister felled by the crisis last year, declared that Greece was embroiled in war it had to win. Antonis Samaras, the centre-right leader tipped to be prime minister after elections expected in April, also rallied his MPs behind the deal despite having resisted key details for weeks.

With trust between Athens and its eurozone creditors, led by Germany, at an all-time low, the Greek government was told the time for pledges had run out. "Greece's promises are no longer enough for us," said Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany's finance minister, who also spoke of the possibility of Greece leaving the  euro.

Following a day of high drama inside and outside parliament in Athens, the Greek coalition leaders now have to deliver some signed undertakings to Brussels that the measures decided last night are irreversible and will be implemented no matter who wins an election that is expected in April.

Eurozone finance ministers are then to agree to the bailout on Wednesday provided Greece meets its end of the bargain. Berlin is insisting most of the money is held in a separate account and is used purely to service Greece's debt. EU ministerial sources said that account could hold up to 70% of the bailout funds. By guaranteeing Greece's creditors are repaid, there would be no default.


Helena Smith is the Guardian's correspondent in Greece, Turkey and Cyprus

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