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A reluctant Greece set to pass austerity law

Tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied before the Greek parliament on Thursday as a general strike continued against a deeply unpopular austerity law expected to be approved later in the evening.

business Updated: Oct 20, 2011 22:40 IST

Tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied before the Greek parliament on Thursday as a general strike continued against a deeply unpopular austerity law expected to be approved later in the evening.

Deputies are expected to pass the plan, required by the European Union and International Monetary Fund, after the bill passed a first vote on Wednesday, when protests degenerated into street battles between black-clad rioters and police.

As Prime Minister George Papandreou prepared to fly to Brussels where a meeting of European leaders on Sunday will try to agree measures to stem the debt crisis, ministers made a final plea to pass the bill and prove Greece's credibility.

"You have to approve the law, with all its clauses," Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told lawmakers. "This is not a game. If anybody thinks they can test how much wiggle-room we have, they're mistaken."

After last minute arm-twisting from party bosses, two potential rebel deputies said they would vote to pass the bill but said they could accept no more austerity.

"I will vote in favour, but this is the last time - I am struggling with my conscience," said Vasso Papandreou, a member of PASOK.