Greek police clash with hauliers amid crippling strike

The BBC's Malcolm Brabant says the mood is Athens is "very angry"

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Greek police have fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of lorry drivers protesting in Athens.

The drivers are refusing to obey an emergency government order for them to end a crippling strike.

The strike, now in its fourth day, has paralysed Greece, depriving petrol stations of fuel and prompting tourists to cancel holidays.

Bottles were hurled outside the transport ministry as drivers tried to climb the gates and get inside.

The BBC's Malcolm Brabant in Athens says the drivers are very angry, demanding compensation for reforms that aim to liberalise the freight sector.

The drivers argue that new licence charges are unfair - well below the start-up fees of up to 300,000 euros (£250,000) that existing operators had to pay.

Abandoned lorries

Our correspondent says police are supposed to hand out papers to the drivers telling them that their lorries are being requisitioned. But many drivers have abandoned their lorries so the papers cannot be served.

There are queues outside the few garages that are still open, and shortages of supplies mean some workers are being laid off at factories.

The Greek government has used a rare emergency order to force the lorry drivers back to work. The measure is usually reserved for times of war or natural disaster.

The government wants to open the freight sector to more competition as part of austerity measures agreed with the IMF and the EU.

The back-to-work order was issued hours after negotiations between the government and the drivers broke down.

The country's tourism industry said it was suffering from the strike, with bookings down and many cancellations.

An Athens resident called Christina told the BBC that her husband "usually travels to work by car but there is no petrol now".

"He has to leave the car at home and get the metro across town and then a taxi to his office. It is costing us an extra 20 euros a day.

"We are due to leave for a holiday on Saturday. We are going to one of the Greek islands here. My baby boy can only drink fresh milk as he has a problem with his digestion. I have been told that there are no deliveries reaching the islands now so I am very worried."

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