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    Teargas fired at Greece protesters

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    ODN

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    Anti-austerity demonstrations in Athens have turned ugly as protesters and police are involved in running street battles.


    Teargas has been fired at protesters who threw petrol bombs at two luxury hotels in the central Syntagma square outside parliament. A balcony on one of the hotels caught fire.


    The violent clashes have come just hours after parliament approved reforms and spending cuts. The measures are a condition of a major EU/IMF bailout.


    A strike by public and private sector workers has already grounded flights, shut down schools and paralysed public transport.


    A march of about 20,000 people reached parliament earlier. Around 200 leftists attacked former conservative minister Kostis Hatzidakis with stones and sticks, shouting: "Thieves! Shame on you!"


    The 300-seat house voted into law measures that cut wages in state-owned bus and railway companies and weakened the power of collective bargaining to allow company-level deals to prevail.


    With a comfortable parliamentary majority, and future bailout instalments at stake, the ruling socialists are unlikely to reverse course.


    Prime Minister George Papandreou expelled a deputy from his parliamentary team for failing to back the government in the vote. But his party still commands a comfortable 156 votes, with more belt-tightening ahead in the 2011 budget next week.


    Ships remained docked at ports, hospitals were working on skeleton staff and ministries shut down as civil servants and private sector workers stayed away.