Athens Burns As Parliament Prepares to Vote on Greek Bailout

Historic buildings in central Athens have been destroyed by fire as protesters riot outside Greek parliament. Inside, lawmakers prepare to vote on a 130 billion euro bailout deal.

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Central Athens is on fire, Reuters reports, with "historic cinemas, cafes, shops and banks" set ablaze by protesters hidden behind black masks. They have been clashing all day with police outside Greek parliament, as lawmakers inside prepared to vote on a 130 billion euro bailout deal that would spare the country from bankruptcy. The air was "thick with tear gas" in Syntagma Square, Reuters says, launched by police at rioting youths who responded by hurling rocks and molotov cockatils. There are also reports of violence in Haraklion, the tourist mecca capital of the island of Crete, as well as in smaller cities like Volos and Agrinio. Amongst the wreckage, a subterranean spot with infamous ties to Nazi Germany:

[M]any businesses were ablaze, including the neo-classical home to the Attikon cinema dating from 1870 and a building housing the Asty, an underground cinema used by the Gestapo during World War Two as a torture chamber.

Prime Minister Lucas D. Papademos issued a plea to Greeks to accept the package, saying it would spare the country from much direr circumstances should it not go through, according to The New York Times. “We are a breath away from ground zero,” Papademos told the country in a televised address on Saturday. The austerity package sought by Greece's private lenders will “restore the fiscal stability and global competitiveness of the economy, which will return to growth, probably in the second half of 2013,” Papademos pledged. Passage of the plan appears likely, The Wall Street Journal reports, with the country's two largest political parties -- the socialist Pasok and conservative New Democracy -- backing the measure.

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