Greek protesters storm German partnership meeting

ATHENS Thu Nov 15, 2012 5:20am EST

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ATHENS Nov 15 (Reuters) - Greek workers stormed a meeting of Greek and German officials in the northern city of Thessaloniki on Thursday and tried to attack a German diplomat in a protest over austerity measures.

Police used truncheons and teargas to disperse around 250 city employees after several burst into the building and ran swearing through its halls. Police said the protesters wanted to stop the meeting aimed at smoothing ties between Berlin and Athens.

Riot police formed a shield around German Consul Wolfgang Hoelscher-Obermaier and fought off protesters who tried to attack him as he entered the building. Some demonstrators tried to pelt him with water bottles.

More than 200 more thronged outside the building chanted "It's now or never!" and held up mock gravestones and banners proclaiming "Fight until the end!"

In Greece, many people worn down by years of austerity blame German Chancellor Angela Merkel for forcing the painful cuts in exchange for the two international bailout packages.

In Germany, media have long characterised the Mediterranean state's 11 million people as lazy, corrupt and ungrateful.

Tens of thousands of protesters clashed with police when Merkel visited Athens in October and some burned Nazi flags.

Greeks have stepped up protests in recent weeks against the austerity measures that Athens has promised its lenders, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, in return for the aid keeping it afloat.

The German embassy was not immediately reachable for comment. An employee at the Thessaloniki city hall said no one was able to respond to a request for comment.

"No one can talk to you now. They have occupied the building," a woman who answered the building's switchboard said.

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