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Greece To Vote On 2013 Budget; Protesters Gather

About 15,000 people converged on the central Athens square outside Parliament earlier in the evening in a peaceful anti-austerity rally. The demonstration ahead of Wednesday's vote had numbered more than 80,000 people and degenerated into violent clashes between protesters and riot police.

"Tonight we vote on the budget to eliminate our primary deficit, to start making our debt sustainable and to pave the way for viable development," Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said. The primary budget deficit doesn't take into account interest payments on outstanding debt.

Samaras has said that without further funding, Greece will run out of euros on Friday, the day on which ⿬5 billion worth of treasury bills mature and must be repaid.

"Without the help of the European Central Bank, the refunding of these treasury bills from the banking system will lead the private sector to complete suffocation," Stournaras said.

Disbursement of the next installment to Greece is essential "because the state's available funds are marginal, although better than expected because the 2012 budget is being executed better than expected," he said, adding that the funds are needed to pay salaries and pensions, as well as for the import of medicines, fuel and food.

Stournaras, however, stressed that with the budget approved, Greece would have fulfilled all its commitments.

With the 2013-14 austerity measures bill and the budget passed into law, "nobody can say any more that Greece must meet its obligations. We have met them and then some," he said.

In Athens, protesters waved banners with anti-austerity slogans such as "IMF get out" as they milled around Syntagma Square outside Parliament in a rally that ended peacefully after a few hours.

Alexis Tsipras, the head of the main opposition Radical Left Coalition party, or Syriza, insisted the new austerity cuts are unfair and would leave Greeks unable to buy essentials such as food, fuel and medicine this winter.

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