Greek leader battles to pass debt deal reforms

Greece's left-wing government has launched a frantic 24-hour effort to push more austerity measures through parliament and meet demands from European creditors as it faced down mounting anger at home.

The belt-tightening measures, which include higher sales tax rates on everything from condoms to race horses, were agreed on with eurozone leaders to prevent the Greek economy from collapsing, and as part of planned third bailout worth €85 billion.

It means recession-hit Greeks will have to pay more for most goods and services by the end of the week.

Unions and trade associations representing civil servants, council workers, pharmacy owners and others called or extended strikes to coincide with today's vote in parliament. Hardliners in Prime Minister Tsipras' own Syriza party were in open revolt.

Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis said lead eurozone lender Germany and its allies had acted like "financial assassins" by forcing the deal on Athens, and urged Mr Tsipras to reject it.

"The deal is unacceptable," Mr Lafazanis said in a statement. "It may pass through parliament ... but the people will never accept it and will be united in their fight against it."

Pro-European opposition parties have pledged support for the bailout bills in parliament, but Mr Tsipras could effectively lose his majority in parliament, weakening his ability to push through measures that he had himself vehemently opposed until a few weeks ago.

Mr Tsipras' coalition partner, Defence Minister Panos Kammenos, also bitterly denounced the new deal.

"There was a coup. A coup in the heart of Europe," said Mr Kammenos, who heads the right-wing Independent Greeks party.

"They want the government to fall and replace it with one not elected by Greek people."

The government holds 162 seats in Greece's 300-member Parliament, and more than 30 of Syriza's own MPs have publicly voiced objections.

Athens was forced to accept harsh terms to remain in the euro after defaulting on its debts to the International Monetary Fund and closing banks to prevent a deposit run.

On Monday, it must repay €4.2 billion to the European Central Bank. It is also in arrears on €2 billion to the International Monetary Fund.

It will take an estimated four weeks for Greece to access the new bailout loans, leaving EU finance ministers scrambling to find ways to get Athens some of the money sooner.

The months-long stand-off between Greece and its creditors has taken a heavy toll on an economy that started the year with a 2.9 per cent growth forecast.

A national small business association said the new austerity measures were likely to cause the economy to shrink for a seventh year, with a 3.5 per cent drop in output.


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