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Page last updated at 16:58 GMT, Friday, 12 December 2008

Greek PM rejects election calls

A Greek riot policeman arrests a youth near parliament in Athens on 12 December
Police in Athens made an unknown number of arrests on Friday

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has rejected calls for an early general election after a week of violent unrest over a fatal police shooting.

Speaking at an EU summit in Brussels, the conservative leader said that his country needed a steady hand at a time of economic crisis.

Masked rioters have again confronted police in central Athens, throwing stones and petrol bombs.

The riots were sparked by the killing of a teenager last Saturday.

One policeman has been charged with the murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, 15, and a second has been charged with being an accomplice.

The officer who fired the shot says the fatal wound came from a ricocheting bullet.

Ballistics tests have not yet been published and the Grigoropoulos family has hired an independent pathologist to study the case to ensure there is no cover-up.

'Blind violence'

Mr Karamanlis, whose party has a majority of just one seat in parliament, said that steering the country to safety out of economic woes was his priority.

Greek youths attack riot police with a steel fence outside parliament in Athens on 12 December
Some rioters ran at police on Friday with a metal fence

"The compassion with which all of us ought to treat the distress of young people cannot be confused with blind violence, with the activities of extreme elements," he told Greek reporters.

"At this time the country faces a serious financial crisis... A steady hand on the helm is needed to deal with it. That is my concern and the concern and the priority of the government, and not scenarios about elections and successions."

The leader of Greece's socialist opposition, George Papandreou, has called for an early election on the grounds that public confidence in the government has been shaken by the riots.

On Friday, demonstrators hurled stones and petrol bombs at riot police near the Greek parliament before being dispersed by police with tear gas.

Police sources quoted by Reuters news agency say they are running out of tear gas after using more than 4,600 capsules in the last week and are urgently contacting foreign suppliers for fresh stocks.

In another development on Friday, Greece's justice ministry confirmed that plans to release 40% of the prison population, or about 5,000 inmates, would begin this month as planned, the Associated Press news agency reports.

The decision was taken after a hunger strike last month in protest at overcrowding.



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