Residents run for cover as clashes break out in Athens

Just as Athens residents thought it was safe to venture into the city centre after angry students and police had transformed it into a war zone, more clashes broke out Thursday night causing passersby to run for cover, dpa reported.

Nearly 4,000 Greek students marched in a sixth straight day of anti-government protests, triggered by the police shooting of a teenager but also fuelled by corruption and economic and education reforms. More demonstrations were planned on Friday and Monday.

Students, many of them wearing gas-masks, threw chunks of marble and hurled firebombs in a clash with police in the middle of Athens, while helicopters hovered overhead.

Other clashes reportedly took place at police stations in the port cities of Thessaloniki, Patras, Ioannina and Kozani. In many cases police retaliated by firing tear gas into the crowds.

Despite the renewed clashes, Athens was calmer than in previous days, but authorities braced themselves for more civil unrest as tensions remain high.

Many fear the riots that have gripped Greece could spill over to other European countries due to the recent economic turmoil and lack of jobs.

Angry youths have reportedly also smashed shops, attacked banks and damaged police vehicles in Spain, France and Denmark.

Earlier Thursday in Athens, hundreds of high school students attacked more than 20 police stations, hurling firebombs, bottles and stones in ongoing violence, which threatens to topple the conservative government.

Authorities said at least one man, a passerby in the Athens district of Halandri, was injured and taken to a hospital. At least five people were detained.

Hundreds of stores have been burned or gutted since the riots began last Saturday as gangs of hooded youths and self-styled anarchists smashed windows, looted shops and set up flaming barricades in streets across the country.

Within hours of the police shooting of the teenager, the violence spread to more than eight cities across the country.

The protests also spread abroad as the Greek embassies or consulates in London, Berlin, Frankfurt, Rome, Paris, New York, Moscow and Cyprus were occupied by demonstrators in the past few days.

Scores of people have been injured and hundreds arrested.

Analysts insist that violence was the result of long-simmering discontent with the government over a series of financial scandals and unpopular economic, pension and education reforms.

The shooting of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was seen as the last straw by many young Greeks, whose economic future is bleak in a country with a high unemployment rate and low wages.

Commentators in Greece have pegged the new generation of young people as the "600-euro-a-month generation of workers," as many earn less than that amount, or 794 dollars, a month.

The government, which has seen its popularity ratings fall sharply behind the opposition Socialists in recent months, promised once again to compensate businesses for the millions of euros of damage suffered - announcing loans, emergency subsidies and tax relief measures.

Store owners have accused authorities of leaving their businesses unprotected as rioters smashed and burned their way through popular shopping districts. Although police have responded when attacked by firebombs, they held back when youths turned their rage against buildings and cars.

Dimitris Katsaridis, president of the Federation of Business in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, told Greek radio that the measures were not enough.

"We are doubtful about how quickly these measures will be implemented; we need them immediately and do not have the luxury to wait," he said.

Victims of devastating forest fires more than a year ago claim that government promises of emergency subsidies for homes and livelihoods lost were never kept.

Meanwhile, as the world economic crisis reached Greece, the government immediately implemented a series of tax measures and a 28- billion-euro bail-out plan for Greek banks. Unlike the banking systems of other countries, Greek banks were not exposed to toxic assets and had no capital adequacy problems.

"The students are out demonstrating on behalf of all the poor, the pensioners and for the average worker who has constantly been taxed to the bones," said a 68-year-old civil servant, who rallied in Athens along with thousands of strikers on Wednesday.

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