Violence continues in Greece for sixth day

Students occupying an Athens university clashed with police on Thursday and vowed more protests in coming days, while many Greeks wondered where the worst riots in decades would leave their government, reported Reuters.

Youths threw stones and fire bombs at police before dawn in a sixth day of protests since the shooting of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos ignited anger at police brutality and rising economic hardships due to the global economic slowdown.

The early morning violence gave way to calm as Greeks returned to work after a 24-hour general strike on Wednesday called by unions against the conservative government's economic policies. But many people asked what would happen next after the worst riots in Greece since military rule ended in 1974.

School and university students and teachers have called a rally in Athens for Friday at Grigoropoulos' shooting, and further demonstrations are planned for next week.

"The government has shown it cannot handle this. If police start imposing the law everyone will say the military junta is back," Yannis Kalaitzakis, 49, an electrician. "The government is stuck between a rock and a hard place."

Many people were angry that the 37-year-old policeman charged with murdering the teenager did not express remorse to investigators on Wednesday. He said he fired warning shots in self-defense which ricocheted to kill the youth.

"Pouring petrol on the flames," Ethnos newspaper said.

Epaminondas Korkoneas and his partner, who is charged as an accomplice, were sent to jail pending trial by a prosecutor on Wednesday. Cases in Greece often take months to reach court.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who has announced financial support for hundreds of businesses damaged in the rioting, was due to travel to Brussels for an EU summit on Thursday, as the government tried to carry on business as usual.

Karamanlis and opposition leader George Papandreou appealed for an end to the violence, which hit at least 10 Greek cities and damaged hundreds of millions of euros (dollars) in property. Greeks also protested in Paris, Berlin, London, Rome, The Hague, Moscow, New York, Italy and Cyprus.

"ELECTIONS IN THREE MONTHS"

While the government, which has a one-seat majority in parliament, appeared to have weathered the immediate storm, its hands-off response to the rioting has damaged its already low popularity ratings, analysts said. The opposition socialist party, which leads in the polls, has called for an election.

"The most likely scenario now is that Karamanlis will call elections in two or three months' time," Georges Prevelakis, professor of geo-politics at Sorbonne University in Paris, said.

On Wednesday, foreign and domestic flights were grounded, banks and schools were shut, and hospitals ran on emergency services as hundreds of thousands of Greeks walked off the job.

Unions say privatizations, tax rises and pension reform have worsened conditions, especially for the one-fifth of Greeks who live below the poverty line, just as the global downturn is hurting the 240 billion-euro ($315 billion) economy.

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