Greek officials expressed relief Monday at European support over the country's debt crisis, but labor unions stepped up strikes, angry at recent wage cuts and sales tax increases they say will hurt the poor.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday said the European Union has "concrete, precise methods" to help Greece financially if needed, but refused to give any details.
He made the remarks after talks in Paris with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou who later traveled to Washington for talks Tuesday with U.S. President Barack Obama.
"This is more than a breathing space: It's a new starting point in our relations with our partners in the eurozone," Deputy Defense Minister Panos Beglitis said in a radio interview Monday.
"The salvation of Greece, if you will, closely coincides with the salvation of the European Union and the eurozone."
Sarkozy's declaration of support, however, had no visible impact on protest plans by unions — with even police officers announcing plans to hold a uniformed demonstration in Athens later this week.
Greece's two largest unions have called a nationwide 24-hour strike for Thursday, while tax collectors and landfill workers were on strike Monday.
Unions strongly oppose a euro4.8 billion ($6.5 billion) austerity package that will hike consumer taxes and slash pay for public sector workers by up to 8 percent.
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