Greek parliament passes first austerity bill

ATHENS - Greek lawmakers on Wednesday passed the first of two austerity bills demanded by international lenders while on the streets police fired tear gas to drive back protesters who attacked the finance ministry.
The bill on tax hikes, spending targets and privatizations was passed by 155 votes for to 138 against, clearing the way for a second vote on Thursday on a separate bill enabling individual budget measures and the privatization of specific state assets. Five MPs abstained and two were absent.
Both bills must be passed for the European Union and International Monetary Fund to release a vital 12-billion-euro loan tranche that the government of Prime Minister George Papandreou needs to remain in funds.
"Now is the time to rise to the historical challenge, look to the future and secure it for the next generations," he told parliament ahead of the vote.
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