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Submitted by unname1 on Fri, 10/21/2011 - 09:39
The Greek parliament approved a painful set of austerity measures on Thursday, defying violent protests in central Athens and a general strike which shut down much of the country.  

The struggling government of Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou won the parliamentary vote with 154 votes in favor and 144 against, despite the decision by one deputy in the ruling party to oppose one article in the package.

The victory should ensure the European Union and International Monetary Fund release a vital EUR8 billion euro (US$11 billion) loan tranche which the government needs to keep paying its bills past November.

The mix of deep pay and pension cuts, tax hikes and changes to collective bargaining agreements has been bitterly opposed and at least 70,000 people joined protests in Athens' Syntagma Square in front of parliament.

Groups of black-clad youths clashed with rivals from PAME, a communist-affiliated labor group, and police later cleared the square.

At least 74 people were taken to hospital with injuries and one man died of a heart attack on the fringes of the protest, but officials said he had not been hurt in the incidents.

Papandreou now flies to Brussels for a meeting of European leaders on Sunday to try to prevent the debt crisis spinning out of control. A second summit is also expected to be held on Wednesday.

Reuters/VOVNews

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