Greek Police Clash With Austerity Protesters
Violence has broken out in the Greek capital Athens, where protesters have clashed with police during an anti-austerity demonstration.
Campaigners threw petrol bombs and rocks at police officers, who responded by firing tear gas to break up groups of troublemakers.
It comes on the day European leaders meet to discuss the future of the single currency.
Millions of Greeks have joined a general strike in a bid to convince politicians to let up on years of crippling austerity.
The 24-hour walkout, organised by the country's two biggest labour unions, is the twentieth work stoppage since a devastating debt crisis erupted in the country late 2009.
The financial crisis has since spread to other troubled economies sharing Europe's single currency.
The latest action targets a fresh batch of brutal budget cuts which Athens must take to unlock some 31 billion euros (£25.1bn) in bailout loans it needs to keep the country paying pension, state salaries and running costs.
From taxi drivers to doctors and diplomats, the strike is expected to paralyse an already suffocating economy.
Ships will remain docked throughout the day, hospitals plan to operate on skeleton staff, and dozens of domestic and international flights face cancellation as air traffic controllers agreed to join the protest.
Aircraft will be grounded - and the country isolated from the rest of the world - for three hours.
Most business and public sector activity is expected to come to a screeching halt and government offices will remain shut.
The focus will be in the capital where organisers have called on protesters to rally outside parliament, a venue of frequent, at times, violent, showdowns between demonstrators and police.
Fearing potential violence, authorities have ordered some 4,000 police to the streets to mind demonstrations planned in the capital.
Steel fences and water cannon have been propped outside parliament to shield the sprawling building.
"Just once, the government should reject [international] lenders' absurd demands," said Yannis Panagopoulos, head of the GSEE private sector union.
"Agreeing to catastrophic measures means driving society to despair and the consequences as well as the protests will be indefinite."
Opinion polls show eight in 10 Greeks increasingly pessimistic, believing the country was heading down a wrong path of austerity.
Still, with the country running low on cash, the prime minister has said Greece has enough money through November.
But Athens has little leverage against lenders pushing for it to adopt 13.5 billion euro in added austerity.
Earlier this week, demands for drastic labour overhauls, including cuts in wages and severance fees, kicked up a political storm. The government's junior coalition partner threatened to walk out of government if the measures were adopted.
Under the current agreement, Greece has to adopt the cuts through 2014; to ease the pain, however, the government, wants an extra two years, until 2016.
Entangled in its worst economic crisis since World War Two, Greece has seen the recession leave a record 1.3 million people, or 25.1%, jobless.
And so unions have vowed to wage rolling strikes to pressure the government to repeal the latest new labour regulations, which include a reported 15,000 public sector sackings.