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No red carpet for Merkel ahead of Athens visit

Despite a ban on protests put into place throughout most of Athens, several thousand protesters took to the streets and let German Chancellor Angela Merkel know what they thought of her upcoming visit.

Angela Merkel will only be staying for six hours on Tuesday, but Greeks in Athens were out in force Monday night to let the German chancellor know she is unwelcome.

The protests had already been organized by labor unions before Merkel's visit had been announced, but her visit gave the protesters a new incentive.

Several people held signs telling Merkel 'you are not welcome,' and some signs compared Merkel to Adolf Hitler.

Merkel's unpopularity in Greece stems from her insistence that Greece adopt very strict austerity measures in exchange for international bailout funds. Some of those funds come from the European Union, and as the EU's biggest economy, Germany has ended up footing a large chunk of the bill.

Tuesday's visit is Merkel's first to Greece since the finance crisis there emerged in 2009. Police have banned protests in Athens during Merkel's visit, and around 7,000 officers will be deployed to maintain order in the city.

The fact that Merkel is making a personal appearance in Athens to meet with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and President Karolos Papoulias is seen by some as a gesture that Merkel wants Greece to stay in the eurozone.

There is speculation that if Greece cannot carry out the harsh austerity measures, it would default on its debt and be forced to leave the common currency area.

mz/jm(dpa, Reuters)