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Europe

Greece: general strike disrupts entire country

Greeks took to the streets to demonstrate against the dismal economy, high unemployment and low wages.

Thousands of demonstrators with banners

Demonstrators march in Athens

A nationwide 24-hour strike brought most of Greece to a halt on Thursday as tens of thousands of demonstrators marched peacefully through major cities to protest against Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' conservative government.

The strike was called by the country's private sector federation GSEE and its public sector union ADEDY. Together, they represent about half of the country's workforce. Union banners read : "We did not cause the crisis; we're not going to pay for it".

No Greek newspapers on Friday

Both international and domestic flights were grounded for several hours, and trains, buses and trams were also stopped. Ferry services to and from the Greek islands were suspended.

Government offices, public administrations and schools were closed, and print and broadcast journalists did not show up for work. Hospitals had to rely on emergency staff.

In December, the bleak economy, a high unemployment rate and low wages led to unrest throughout the country. A police shooting of a teenager then triggered riots, which were the worst Greece had seen in decades. Just last month, Karamanlis' government froze civil servants' salaries and imposed a special tax on those making more than 60,000 euros a year.

Despite continued unrest, Karamanlis has ruled out early polls - parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2011.

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