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Greece paralyzed by general strike

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Greece paralyzed by general strike

Country's leader offers to resign as parliament debates austerity program

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou will reshuffle his Cabinet and seek a confidence vote Thursday after a day of violent protests against his austerity plans in the center of Athens.

Papandreou admitted that he could not drive through reforms to shore up the Greek economy, and offered to make way for a government of national unity, the Guardian reports.

Greek TV network reported that Papandreou told opposition leader Antonis Samaras: "If I am the problem, I am not tied down to my chair. I can discuss everything, even a national unity government."

Greece was paralyzed by a general strike Wednesday, while tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in central Athens to protest the government’s latest proposed austerity program.

But Greek riot police have stopped striking workers from encircling the country’s parliament and blocking access for members of parliament due to debate the new austerity measures, the BBC reports.

Papandreou is trying to push through the policies as part of the conditions under the EU and IMF's bail-out package. But the country is losing faith in his leadership, and for the first time his socialist party is behind the opposition conservatives in public opinion polls, according to the BBC.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in Athens as the main public- and private-sector unions staged a 24-hour strike. Around the country, schools and government offices were shut, ports, public transport and banks were disrupted and hospitals were only offering emergency services with a skeleton staff. However, airports are operating normally.

A walkout by journalists forced most morning news programs off the air, and small businesses and retailers were expected to join the strike later Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reports.

"Thieves, traitors!" chanted thousands of activists and unionists that gathered around Syntagma square in central Athens, just outside the parliament, reports Reuters. "Where did the money go?"

It is the third general strike in Greece this year. It comes as Greece’s parliament is to begin debating a five-year $40.36 billion austerity program of tax hikes, spending cuts and sell-offs of state property, required if it is to continue receiving EU and IMF aid.

A top credit agency has cut Greece's rating, making it the least credit-worthy nation out of 131 countries it monitors, according to the WSJ.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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debt, eu, euro, george papandreou, greece, imf

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