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Greek Parliament approves new bailout deal

Greek Parliament approves new bailout deal

March 21st, 2012 by DEREK GATOPOULOS and NICHOLAS PAPHITIS, Associated Press in News

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Greece's Parliament early Wednesday approved a new international bailout deal, which will see the crisis-hit country receive an additional (euro) 172 billion ($227 billion) in rescue loans.

Lawmakers voted 213-79 in favor of the new agreement, with deputies backing the coalition government of socialists and conservatives broadly following party lines.

Earlier, the Communist Party staged nationwide protests against the deal, including a rally outside parliament attended by several thousand demonstrators.

Greece narrowly avoided default this month after sealing the loan agreement - the second in two years - with eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund, as well as a massive debt restructuring deal with banks and other private bond holders.

"There is no other solution. If anyone has an alternative, let them come forward," Deputy Finance Minister Philippos Sachinidis told Parliament for the vote.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos' four-month-old coalition is expected to call a general election for late April or early May.

Papademos was expected to name a new finance minister later Wednesday after Evangelos Venizelos resigned from the post late Monday to lead the majority Socialist party, Pasok, in the election.

While the country remains cut off from long-term debt markets, it has continued to hold regular short-term debt auctions.

On Tuesday, the public debt management agency said borrowing costs dropped in a new 13-week treasury bill auction that raised (euro) 1.3 billion ($1.71 billion), with the country paying 4.25 percent compared to 4.61 percent last month.

Greece has been dependent on eurozone-IMF rescue loans since May 2010. In return for the second bailout, the government pledged to abolish 15,000 public sector jobs this year, while salaries, pensions and other benefits have suffered a new drastic round of cuts.

Staff at a state hospital in Athens refused to accept new patients on Tuesday, demanding unpaid wages and expressing opposition to merger plans being pushed through by the government to try and cut costs. Lawyers in many parts of the country also launched a two-day strike.

And protesting Greek ferry crews halted services for two days before their union agreed to return to work on Wednesday.

Athens has also committed to raise (euro) 19 billion ($25 billion) by 2015 under an open-ended (euro) 50 billion ($65.7 billion) program to privatize or develop state property.

On Tuesday, authorities launched an international tender to develop 186 hectares (460 acres) of coastal land, including a golf course, on the resort island of Rhodes. A similar process is under way for land on the island of Corfu.