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Bombers target Greek central bank

A car bomb has exploded outside Bank of Greece as the euro zone bailout nation prepares to return to the international loans market. The blast caused no injuries after unions staged a general strike against austerities.

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Gloom in Athens

An explosion preceded by telephone warnings shook central Athens Thursday, leaving the remnants of a car strewn outside a Greek central bank building. It is near the office of Greece's international lenders.

A newspaper and a news website's bureau had received anonymous warning calls that 75 kilograms of explosives planted in a car was about to explode.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but police speculated that leftist or anarchist groups might have been behind the incident.

On Wednesday, the finance minister in Athens had announced that Greece would return to debt markets on Thursday and issue its first bonds since 2010. That's when it was excluded after revealing its public accounts had been falsified.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which alongside the EU and the European Central Bank (ECB) provided bailout funding, welcomed Greece's intended return.

"This reflects the success of the program," said Poul Thomsen, the head of the IMF's mission in Greece, speaking in Washington.

Greece's plan to issue five-year bonds on Thursday came on the eve of a visit Friday by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

Europe's largest economy played a key role in ensuring Greece did not crash out of the eurozone at the height of the debt crisis two years ago. Greek currently holds the EU's rotating presidency.

Unemployed, unpaid

Protestors who took part in Wednesday's general strike in Athens and Thessaloniki said Greece's intended bond issue was regarded as irrelevant by most Greeks struggling financially.

Secondary school teacher Nikos Toutousakis said: "It's only capital that profits and not the workers."

"Everything they're saying about the return to the markets has nothing to do with us, the workers," he said.

Strikers protested against tax hikes as well as spending and job cuts imposed by Greece's government in order to secure past bailout loans provided by the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF.

Wednesday's stoppage shut down ferry services, disrupted rail travel and numerous government offices.

ipj/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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