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Strike cripples Greece after fresh protests

Protestors threw fire bombs at police outside parliament during a general strike which paralysed Greece and piled pressure on a conservative government reeling from the worst riots in decades.

world Updated: Dec 10, 2008 23:28 IST

Protestors threw fire bombs at police outside parliament on Wednesday during a general strike which paralysed Greece and piled pressure on a conservative government reeling from the worst riots in decades.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis announced financial support for businesses damaged in five days of rioting. He also pledged to safeguard people from violence, but did not say how.

Government sources have denied rumours emergency measures were being considered.

"Government murderers!" demonstrators shouted, furious at the shooting of a teenager by police on Saturday which sparked riots fuelled by simmering public anger at political scandals, rising unemployment and poverty.

Witnesses said the officer who fired the shot took deliberate aim, but his lawyer said on Wednesday a ballistics report showed the boy was killed by an accidental ricochet.

"The investigation shows it was a ricochet ... In the end, this was an accident," lawyer Alexis Kougias said. The ballistics report has not yet been officially published.

Thousands marched on parliament on Wednesday in a union rally at economic and social policy, which quickly turned violent. Police fired teargas and protesters responded with stones, bottles and sticks, a Reuters witness said.

Under Greece's constitution, the government can impose a ban on public assembly if it threatens public security and socio-economic life. Government sources have denied such a plan.

The opposition socialist party has said the government has lost the trust of the people and has called for elections.

"Participation in the strike is total, the country has come to a standstill," said Stathis Anestis, spokesman for the GSEE union federation which called the 24-hour stoppage.

Foreign and domestic flights were grounded, banks and schools were shut, and hospitals ran on emergency services as hundreds of thousands of Greeks walked off the job.