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Farmers, shipyard workers protest in Greece

Associated Press Modified: October 4, 2012 at 3:47 pm •  Published: October 4, 2012

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek police clashed with shipyard workers protesting pay arrears Thursday after they broke into the Defense Ministry grounds, while hundreds of farmers on tractors tried to invade the country's second-busiest airport on Crete during an anti-austerity protest.

Greece has been gripped by a severe financial crisis since late 2009, and waves of spending cuts and tax hikes have led to frequent strikes and demonstrations. The nation's 3-month-old coalition government is currently preparing a major new austerity package demanded by rescue creditors.

Unions have promised new protests and a general strike next week when the government's new €13.5 billion ($17.5 billion) program is debated in parliament — where the conservative-led coalition controls enough seats to pass the measures.

In Athens on Thursday, more than 100 protesters forced open the shuttered entrance to the Defense Ministry complex, crossing the courtyard and blocking the entrance to the general staff building. Riot police were called in to force back the demonstrators, who were demanding to meet with ministry officials.

Greece's top military officer, Gen. Michalis Kostarakos, was heckled by the shipyard workers when he came out to speak to them by using their portable loudspeaker. "First get off my base," Kostarakos told the protesters, arguing that the military had no part in the workers' dispute with the government.

Police said 106 people were detained for questioning, prompting another protest gathering outside police headquarters. Riot police used pepper spray to prevent a group of protesters from barging into the building.

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