ATHENS, Greece – Hundreds of youths rioted in Athens on Saturday, throwing Molotov cocktails and stones at police who responded with tear gas at a May Day rally against austerity moves. The measures being enacted by the cash-strapped government are intended to secure foreign loans to stave off bankruptcy.

Police made at least nine arrests, including six people suspected of looting a shop. Seven officers were injured along with two demonstrators.

Responding to calls from the country’s two main labor unions, several thousand people marched in major Greek cities Saturday against the anticipated spending cuts and consumer tax hikes.

In Athens, groups of black-clad anarchists in hoods and motorcycle helmets smashed three shop and hotel windows and set up barricades of burning trash bins. About 17,000 people took part in the march, according to police estimates.

Leftist and anarchist demonstrators heckled and threw plastic water bottles at former parliamentary speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis, a governing Socialist lawmaker, after spotting him among pedestrians on the sidelines of the Athens march. Kaklamanis, 73, was hit and kicked but suffered no major injuries and was eventually whisked away by police.

The center-left government is set to announce more sweeping spending cuts through 2012 to win support for an international loan package worth $60 billion this year alone. The Cabinet was to meet today to approve the measures, with Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou expected to announce them at noon and then immediately fly to Brussels for an emergency meeting of euro-zone finance ministers.

The International Monetary Fund has said it will provide the money over three years, along with Greece’s partners in the euro zone. IMF and EU negotiators began talks in Athens on April 21 and continued through Saturday evening.

TV channel Mega said the Greek delegation, led by Papaconstantinou, Economy Minister Louka Katseli and Defense Minister Evangelos Venizelos, had agreed on the essential measures and were still negotiating over the text of the law that will be submitted to Parliament as an emergency measure immediately following today’s Cabinet meeting.

In March, Athens announced cuts in civil service pay, higher indirect taxes and a crackdown on widespread tax evasion. But these proved insufficient, and additional austerity measures will likely include further hikes in consumer taxes, and deeper cuts in pensions and public service pay. Unions are furious.

“These measures are death,” said Nikos Diamantopoulos, who was participating in a rally organized by pro-Communist unions.


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