Violence rocks Athens as lawmakers seek debt deal


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The Independent Online

Flames lit up the Athens skyline last night as violence engulfed streets outside parliament, where lawmakers were scrambling to reach a debt deal.

At least 10 buildings were burning, including a cinema, a bank, a mobile phone dealership, a glassware store and a cafeteria. Dozens of shops were looted.

The mood was explosive inside the legislative assembly as lawmakers fiercely debated a bail out package to help save Greece from a disorderly bankruptcy and a potential exit from the eurozone.

A communist MP hurled the document including the second loan agreement at Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who urged the lawmakers to approve the bill.

"You're fooling yourself if you think that you will lead the procedure to an impasse and will punish the troika and the IMF," Finance MinisterVenizelos said.

Greece must pass harsh cuts to secure a €130bn (£109bn) loan that will help keep its economy afloat. Athens does not have the cash to repay €14.4bn bonds on 20 March. Among the measures now being proposed by the Government is the reduction of €100bn of Greece's privately held debt. But clashes broke out after 100,000 people opposed to the austerity plans rallied on the streets of Athens. Gangs of youths hurled pieces of smashed pavement and petrol bombs,while the riot police retaliated firing volleys of tear gas and stun grenades. At least 37 protesters were injured in the fierce clashes, and more than 20 suspected rioters were detained, an official spokesman said.