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Greek Parliament approves 2013 budget, clearing obstacle to more aid

By Christine Pirovolakis –

ATHENS, Greece — Greece moved one step closer to persuading international lenders to release the next installment of emergency aid needed to keep the country from going bankrupt, as lawmakers approved the country’s 2013 austerity budget early Monday.

The approval by a 167-128 vote comes just days after Parliament approved separate budget-cutting legislation, including deep spending cuts and tax increases over the next two years.

That package sparked protests that brought tens of thousands of recession-weary demonstrators into the streets. More than 10,000 protesters came out on Sunday before the budget vote.

Angered by the cutbacks, garbage collectors have gone on strike. Judges have extended their protest action to Nov. 21, and lawyers will continue theirs through Friday. Pharmacists plan to strike for two days starting Nov. 26.

The “troika” of creditors comprising the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund demanded the austerity program in return for loans.

The leader of Greece’s main opposition, the Radical Left Coalition Party, SYRIZA, said a new package of austerity cuts will leave Greeks unable to buy essentials such as food, fuel and medicine.

Athens has expressed hope that the troika will quickly disburse the new installment, but Brussels has indicated Greece should not expect a decision during Monday’s eurozone finance ministers’ meeting.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble also has said international creditors would not be rushed into approving more aid.

The disbursement also depends on a positive report by the creditors on the country’s fiscal progress.

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