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Greeks march to mark 1973 revolt, protest austerity

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek police fired tear gas at stone-throwing youths as thousands marched through Athens on Wednesday to mark a 1973 student uprising against the then- military dictatorship and protest current austerity measures.

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About 17,000 students and teachers, workers and pensioners marched in the rain to the U.S. embassy, beating drums and chanting slogans opposing international efforts to solve Greece’s current debt crisis, such as “No IMF, no EU, let’s take our fate into our own hands”.

Police clashed with groups of hooded youths hurling stones at them near the embassy and fired several rounds of tear gas to disperse them. Protesters accuse the United States of supporting the 1967-74 military junta.

Earlier, police used tear gas against a small group of youths in black who smashed shop windows and fired a flare at riot police. There were sporadic clashes in the center of Athens after the end of the march and 48 protesters were detained.

Guarded by more than 7,000 police officers, the march marked the uprising at Athens Polytechnic University where dozens are believed to have been killed when tanks smashed through the gates to crush a revolt that heralded the end of the junta.

“We are here to honor the historic revolt but also to protest against the EU and the IMF and the tough conditions,” said Nicos Antoniou, 45, a bookshop employee. “We are fed up with this government.”

Greece is implementing belt-tightening measures, such as tax rises and salary cuts, prescribed by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund in exchange for 110 billion euros ($148 billion) in loans aimed at pulling the euro zone country back from the brink of bankruptcy.

Shops closed down and traffic stalled in the capital as the march wended its way through the city before heading to the U.S. embassy.

“This year the anniversary finds our country in a prolonged crisis, in very tough times,” said Gregoris Tassoulas, a top public security official. “Greek people are now struggling for economic survival.”

The annual protest is usually marred by violence, as self-proclaimed anarchists trailing the march clash with police, but heavy rain this year dampened spirits.

Most Greeks oppose the austerity measures, which include wage and pension cuts. The ruling socialists still lead in opinion polls and came first in recent municipal elections but won far fewer votes than in last year’s landslide election victory.

Additional reporting by Yannis Behrakis; Editing by Susan Fenton