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Greece hit by general strike over austerity

Greeks have walked off the job to protest austerity measures the southern eurozone nation has to endure as a trade-off for a third bailout granted by international lenders. Required reforms have not gone down well.

Greece's largest private and public-sector unions on Thursday kicked off a general strike against fresh austerity measures, marking the first nationwide protest action under the leftist government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

The strike against tax hikes and an upcoming pension overhaul shut down public services, hit ship and train transports and also forced the cancellation of dozens of domestic flights.

Hospitals said they would run on emergency staff and some state schools closed as teachers and students signaled they'd join the strike.

Trying to impress lenders

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New deadline for Greece

The protests came as senior representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund plus the European Stability Fund were holding a review of reforms pledged by Athens

in return for a third bailout of 86 billion euros ($93 billion).

Paradoxically, Tsipras' own Syriza party had come out in support of the strike, saying industrial action would strengthen the government's hand in talks with lenders.

Social media activists said they were confused, with one asking. "Are we marching with Alexis to topple Tsipras, or with Tsipras to topple Alexis?"

Tsipras himself had called the bailout conditions "a painful compromise" and "a tactical retreat" enabling the country to avoid bankruptcy and stay in the eurozone.

hg/pad (Reuters, AFP)

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