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Greek politicians are preparing to vote on austerity measures that have sparked nationwide strikes and the violent clashes in Athens. PM George Papandreou has said that only his 28bn-euro (£25bn) austerity plan will get Greece back on its feet. The package is expected to be approved by parliament by a narrow margin, but correspondents say it is unlikely to bring an end to the unrest. If it is not approved, Greece could run out of money within weeks. Parliament is expected to finish debating the first part of the bill at about 1300 local time (1100 GMT), with the vote taking place some time after. Crowds have again gathered outside parliament, on the second day of a 48-hour general strike against the cuts. They say the measures will unfairly affect the less well-off. Many protesters were wearing face masks, expecting police to use tear gas as they did on Tuesday. One parliamentary deputy, Lianna Kanelli, was surrounded by crowds and had yoghurt thrown at her as she arrived. Wednesday’s vote will cover the first part of Greece’s austerity package, focusing on raising taxes to secure some 14.09bn euros over the next five years and introducing 14.32bn euros in public spending cuts. It will be followed on Thursday by a vote on a change in law allowing the package to be put in place. One socialist deputy, Alexandros Athanassiadis, said on Wednesday that he would vote against the measures but would be “the only one”. Total Greek debt Greece is about to get a second bail-out from the EU, aimed at helping pay its debts until 2014. It also has to agree more cuts as part of the deal. The package is needed to secure the next instalment of the country’s 110bn-euro bail-out to be released by the EU and IMF. Once passed, European officials will start to finalise the details of a second bail-out, worth an estimated 120bn euros, designed to help Greece pay its debts until the end of 2014. The impact of the Greek vote would be felt worldwide said Herman Van Rompuy, president of the EU Commission, on Tuesday. The governor of Greece’s central bank, George Provopoulos, said a ‘no’ vote would be “suicide” for the country. Petrol bombs A Greek government defeat would send ripples of anxiety right across the eurozone, with Greece facing the prospect next month of becoming the first member state to default on its debts, says the BBC’s Chris Morris in Athens. Late on Tuesday, the newly-named IMF chief, Christine Lagarde, urged Greek politicians to unite to avoid a debt default, saying: “The country’s destiny is at stake. “If I have a message this evening about Greece, it is a call to the Greek opposition… to join in national unity with the party which is currently in power.” But the measures have been fiercely opposed by the public. Polls suggest up to 80% of Greeks oppose them. On Tuesday, thousands of protesters marched through Athens’ traffic-free centre as public transport ground to a halt during the general strike. Amid plumes of smoke and tear gas, anarchist rioters – some wearing gas masks – threw petrol bombs and bits of stone chipped from buildings as well as torching two communications vans. Greece: Crucial dates • June 29: Parliament to vote on a new austerity package – debate scheduled to end at 1300 (1100 GMT) • July 3: EU will sign off latest bail-out payment to Greece – 12bn euros – if austerity package has passed • July 15: Without the 12bn euros, Greece will default • Greece: The moment of truth • Can the eurozone carry on? • Viewpoint: Greece needs social consensus • Greece strikes: Your views Officials say 46 people were injured, including 37 policemen, and 14 people arrested One man was reportedly stabbed as fighting broke out between rival groups of protesters; some trade unionists tried to persuade anarchists to leave the square, saying their violent protests were only harming the demonstrators’ cause. More than 5,000 police officers were deployed to control the protests. The strike halted most public services, closed banks and saw hospitals operating on skeleton staff while many flights, trains, buses and ferries were cancelled. Protesters blockaded the port of Piraeus, near Athens, which links most Greek islands with the mainland. The unions are angry that the government’s austerity programme will impose taxes on those earning the minimum wage, following months of other cuts, which have seen unemployment rise to more than 16%. Recently-appointed Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos acknowledged that the cuts were “unfair”, but said they were absolutely necessary, and called on all deputies to back them. But the main opposition leader, Antonis Samaras of the New Democracy party, said the thinking behind the austerity package was flawed, and that tax rates should be lowered rather than raised in order to stimulate the economy. Mr Papandreou faces wavering from within the governing Panhellenic Socialist Movement (Pasok). But it is now thought just one Pasok deputy intends to oppose the bill. The party has a slim majority, with 155 seats out of 300 in parliament. BBC News

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