* Papandreou warns against further unrest
* Wants a committee to crack down on lawlessness
* Warns that democracy is at stake
(Adds government comment)
By Harry Papachristou
ATHENS, July 6 Prime Minister George Papandreou
warned on Wednesday that violent protests against spending cuts
to satisfy international lenders threatened to lead to the kind
of barbarism that in the past had derailed democracy in Greece.
The austerity required in exchange for a bailout for
debt-ridden Greece has sparked attacks on politicians and bloody
demonstrations on the streets of Athens, where hooded youths
have fought running battles with riot police.
In a reference to the installation of the military junta
that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974, Papandreou told a cabinet
meeting that undermining democratic institutions in the past had
led to a "derailment of democracy".
"We must all learn from history," he said.
A government official made clear Papandreou did not mean
there was a risk the military would take over.
"The prime minister did not say democracy was in danger. He
meant that violence would open the way to anti-democratic
behaviours and reminded people of history," said the official
who requested anonymity.
The austerity package, that included wage cuts and tax
rises, was imposed amid the deepest recession since the
restoration of democracy and has been deeply unpopular.
Clearly worried about law and order, the prime minister
called for an inter-party parliamentary committee to be set up
to decide on new measures, within the framework of existing law,
"to protect and better manage public gatherings and policing."
In comments to the cabinet meeting, which were televised
nationally, Papandreou said: "A state ruled by law cannot
tolerate any spontaneous or organised violence. Everybody must
realise that the attacks against parliament, MPs and other
citizens are mutilating democracy and undermining civil rights.
"They are creating conditions for even more lawlessness,
more insecurity, finally hurting the weak and the nation."
RIOTS, ATTACKS, ABUSE OF LAWMAKERS
Papandreou said there were extremist political groups
seeking to exploit Greece's crisis which were encouraging
"riots, attacks, the abuse against MPs and political parties ...
"Blockades, violence and the attempt at ideological
terrorism have no place in a democracy, in public spaces, in
universities, squares, neighbourhoods and the media."
Protesters have marched through the capital shouting
slogans, banging drums and carrying banners attacking the terms
of the bailout many Greeks feel imposes harsh penalties on
ordinary pensioners and workers while sparing the rich.
Ordinary Greeks also want to hold politicians accountable
for the state of the nation's finances and protesters who gather
every night before parliament chant: "Thieves, Thieves!"
There have been a series of attacks on and threats to
members of the ruling PASOK socialist party and some politicians
have been forced to cancel engagements including Papandreou.
Protesters threw eggs and yoghurt at one PASOK lawmaker in
the central city of Lamia while others threw bottles and a chair
at a PASOK deputy as he left parliament.
Riot police are now stationed in the streets surrounding
Syntagma Square in central Athens which became the epicentre of
protest where violent clashes have taken place and where
activists camp out maintaining a 24-hour vigil.
Having seen the ferocity of the attacks by hardcore
protesters on police, Papandreou was at pains to emphasise that
freedom of speech must be within the rule of law.
"It is not a democratic right of the fanatics to arbitrarily
threaten fellow citizens and human beings. It is not their
democratic right to do whatever they like," he said.
Athenian democracy, dating back to around 500 BC, is one of
the world's oldest and although other Greek cities set up their
own democracies none was as powerful.
In Greece's modern history a group of army colonels seized
power in April 1967 and seven years later the military junta
collapsed, democracy was restored and the monarchy was
(Additional reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Writing by Peter
Millership; Editing by Jon Boyle)