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Greece gets support, but strikes, too

Laid-off Olympic Airways employees blocked a road in Athens yesterday for a fifth day to demand government payouts. Laid-off Olympic Airways employees blocked a road in Athens yesterday for a fifth day to demand government payouts. (Louisa Gouliamaki/ AFP/ Getty Images)
Associated Press / March 9, 2010

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ATHENS - Greek officials expressed relief yesterday at European support over the country’s debt crisis, but labor unions stepped up strikes, angry about wage cuts and sales tax increases they say will hurt the poor.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday said the European Union has “concrete, precise methods’’ to help Greece financially, if needed, but refused to give details. He made the remarks after talks in Paris with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, who later traveled to Washington for talks today with President Obama.

“This is more than a breathing space; it’s a new starting point in our relations with our partners in the eurozone,’’ Deputy Defense Minister Panos Beglitis said. “The salvation of Greece, if you will, closely coincides with the salvation of the European Union and the eurozone.’’

Greece’s two largest unions have called a nationwide 24-hour strike for Thursday, while tax collectors and landfill workers were on strike yesterday.

Unions oppose a $6.5 billion package that will raise taxes and slash public-sector workers’ pay.