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Angela Merkel in Athens: German chancellor greeted by protests during Greece visit (VIDEO)


Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel before their meeting in Athens on Oct. 9, 2012. It was Merkel's first visit to Greece since the debt crisis erupted almost three years ago; protestors geared up for a major show of discontent against painful austerity cuts.



Angela Merkel arrived in Athens on Tuesday afternoon, where she was met by angry Greeks who blame Germany for Greece's ever-harsher budget cuts.

Authorities have set up a "red zone" across swathes of the city in which all demonstrations are banned, according to Athens News, while thousands of police officers have been deployed to keep order.

Outside the barriers, though, in the city's central Syntagma Square, photos showed that a huge crowd had responded to trade unions' and opposition parties' calls for mass rallies.

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The German chancellor is in Greece for the first time in five years. The visit will last only a few hours, just long enough for her to hold talks with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and President Karolos Papoulias – but the real purpose is a show of solidarity, according to the BBC.

In a joint press conference with Samaras, Merkel acknowledged that "many people are suffering in Greece" and that changes were tough to make, but said that the country was on the right path and seeing progress daily.

"I want Greece to stay in the euro zone," she stated, calling Germany and Greece "friends and partners in Europe."

Samaras, meanwhile, pledged that Greece would carry out its promised reforms and become "a European success."

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Yet Greeks, many of whom blame Germany for demanding hefty budget cuts in return for EU-IMF rescue money, did not seem receptive to Merkel's message.

"She does not come to support Greece, which her policies have brought to the brink. She comes to save the corrupt, disgraced and servile political system," Alexis Tsipras, who leads Greece's opposition Syriza alliance, is quoted by Der Spiegel as saying. "We will give her the welcome she deserves."

Anti-Merkel protests began on Monday night, Reuters reported, with slogans that included: "Don't cry for us, Angela" and "Angela, you are not welcome."

On Tuesday, the news wire said, some protesters threw stones and petrol bombs and received tear gas from police in return.

Athens News' photos showed some demonstrators in Nazi uniform, in protest at what they claim is German economic imperialism.

Germany has contributed more money than any other EU country to Greece's $200-billion bailout packages, and some Germans are frustrated by what they see as Greeks' ingratitude.

German tabloid Bild, the country's top-selling paper, argued that Greeks ought to be welcoming Merkel with open arms, and urged the chancellor to "stay tough" with Greece to stop it costing any more to the German taxpayer.

Watch a live stream from Syntagma Square:

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