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Man Hurls Shoe At Greek PM Over Cutbacks

ATHENS: A man threw a shoe at Greece Prime Minister George Papendreou on Saturday in protest against the socialist government's austerity measures. The shoe missed its intended target and the man was arrested along with
PTI September 12, 2010 12:31 IST
PTI
ATHENS: A man threw a shoe at Greece Prime Minister George Papendreou on Saturday in protest against the socialist government's austerity measures.

The shoe missed its intended target and the man was arrested along with two accomplices, radio reports said. The incident took place in the city of Thessaloniki where the PM was attending the opening of an international exhibition.

The 49-year-old assailant told reporters he was a radiologist and member of an ultra conservative organisation. He said he threw the shoe in protest at government fiscal and labour reforms.

The austerity measures were introduced in a bid to get the budget deficit down from around 14% of gross domestic product to under the EU-mandated limit of three percent by 2014. Unions and other organisation have a called a demonstration in Thessaloniki Saturday evening to protest the government's policies. ians  

Greece's prime minister promised Saturday to lower corporate taxes to help revive the debt-plagued country's economy, while thousands of protesters marched — mostly peacefully — against the government's harsh austerity measures.
Prime Minister George Papandreou said the tax rate on companies' retained profits would be cut from 24 per cent to 20 per cent next year, providing what he called "a strong incentive for investments and competitiveness."

He also pledged to open up restricted occupations — including those of truck drivers, notaries, taxi drivers and pharmacists — deregulate the energy market, chose privatization targets, facilitate major investments and simplify business licensing procedures by the end of this year.

Some 20,000 people gathered in three separate protests in the northern port city of Thessaloniki before Papandreou's speech. They were monitored by about 4,500 police on security duty.

Minor clashes broke out as scores of youths attacked riot police with sticks and were repelled with tear gas. No arrests or injuries were immediately reported. Police detained 20 people, including 13 from Spain, Italy, Britain and Portugal.

Cutbacks condition of bailout
Greece narrowly avoided bankruptcy in May when European countries and the International Monetary Fund gave it $140 billion US through 2012 in emergency loans.

The money came on the condition that Athens make deep cutbacks, moves that have angered unions.

Previous protests have turned violent, and in May three people died in a bank torched by hooded youths who infiltrated a large demonstration in Athens. The action shocked Greeks and deflated the protest movement.

Earlier Saturday, an elderly man threw a shoe at Papandreou, who had just inaugurated an annual trade fair. The projectile landed wide of its target, and the alleged shoe-thrower was arrested but later freed as Papandreou declined to press charges.

Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said Friday that cuts to the government-owned railway would extend to other state corporations. "As a society, we have shown that we understand the problem," he said.

But amid a deepening recession and high unemployment, unions are angry at this year's deep spending cuts and consumer tax hikes, and fear new cutbacks. Heralding a new round of unrest, railway workers are planning strikes against payroll cuts, and some unionists have threatened to burn privately operated trains.