Strikes in Greece as austerity deal proves elusive

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A 24-hour strike by civil servants
disrupted public services in Greece Wednesday as the country’s
government struggled to hammer out a deal on further austerity measures
with international creditors.
The strike by public sector unions
hit services at tax offices, local government and elsewhere. A protest
march is planned in central Athens later in the day, while civil
servants have penciled in another 48-hour strike on March 19-20.
Demonstrators
gathered at two squares in central Athens, including cleaning staff
fired by the Finance Ministry, who marched holding up buckets and mops.
The
latest disruptions have come as negotiations with rescue lenders have
dragged on for months, with the government reluctant to impose more
economic pain in a country already exhausted by a six-year recession.
"We
believe that they will be concluded by Sunday," government spokesman
Simos Kedikoglou told private Antenna television. "We are near the end
of the crisis, and this is the last major consultation."
Greece
has been hammered by a vicious financial crisis since late 2009 that
developed into an economic depression. The economy has shrunk by around a
quarter while unemployment has soared to over 25 percent.
Since
May 2010, Greece has been dependent on billions of euros in rescue loans
from the other European Union countries that use the euro, and from the
International Monetary Fund. In return, successive Greek governments
have had to slash spending, increase taxes and enact wide-ranging
economic reforms.
There are hopes that the country’s recession will soon end but the recovery is expected to be slow.
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