Further protests in Athens ahead of key vote

Several hundred Greek civil servants staged a protest in front of parliament in Athens on Saturday as lawmakers inside debated a draft 2013 budget ahead of a key vote.

"No to salary cuts!" read one banner held up by the protestors, civil servants from across the country.

They were protesting the reduction of some 125,000 civil servants by 2016, part of a new austerity package that squeezed through parliament on Wednesday, with just 153 lawmakers voting in favour of it in the 300-member chamber.

Last week Athens ground to a halt, as private and public sector unions took part in 48-hour strikes to protest against the austerity package.

On Saturday, lawmakers began the debate on the 2013 budget on which they are due to vote late on Sunday in the second key test for the government in less than a week.

The 2013 budget predicts that the economy will shrink by a worse-than-previously expected 4.5pc next year and that the country's debt mountain will swell to €346bn (£276.5bn), or 189pc of economic output.

The government is planning €9.4bn in cuts which will affect mainly state wages, pensions and benefits that have already been drastically reduced over the past two years.

But it will still need to borrow over €68bn next year, the draft budget says.

Greece is currently surviving on two huge bailout packages from its troika of creditors, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

In return for the aid to avoid default, Athens has introduced a series of austerity measures which have sparked popular anger in a country that faces a sixth year of recession and where unemployment hit above the 25 percent mark in July.

Source: AFP