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Anti-austerity rallies spark clashes in Greece

Greece has been brought to a standstill in a general strike by workers angry over government austerity measures. Police violently clashed with hooded rioters on the streets of Athens on Wednesday.

Masked youths threw petrol bombs, smashed windows and set fire to rubbish near hotels in Syntagma square, in central Athens. Police responded by firing tear gas and stun grenades.

Those confrontations are believed to have occured on the sidelines of the main demonstrations, in which thousands of workers from a variety of professions took to the streets, after their labor unions called for a 24-hour strike on Wednesday.

They're striking in protest at a new round of austerity measures that Greece must put in place in order to receive loans from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

A further two billion euros has to be found under austerity measures due to be introduced next month by conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the three party coalition he heads.

Watch video 01:35

Greek government sticks to course

Previous rounds of cutbacks have hit most workers in the debt-striken country, many of whom marched to the Greek Parliament on Wednesday, chanting "EU, IMF out!"

"For the past two-to-three years we've been living an incredible social catastrope," municipal worker Ilias Loizos told the news agency AFP.

"My salary has been cut by 50 percent. I have two children and tomorrow I don't know if I'll have a job," said the 56-year-old.

"We can't take it anymore - we are bleeding. We can't raise our children like this," said 54-year-old teacher Dina Kokou, who has four children and lives on 1,000 euros a month, speaking to Reuters.

Police say there were around 34,000 protesters in Athens, and 18,000 in Thessaloniki, although another estimate doubles the number of demonstrators in the Greek capital.

The strike shut down the public sector, while flights, train services and ferries were halted.

jr/kms (Reuters, AFP)

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