General strike against cuts brings Greece to a halt

media captionHow is Greece faring under its international obligations

Workers in Greece are holding a 24-hour general strike over continuing cuts as international lenders decide whether to unlock further bailout money.

Flights and other transport are being disrupted by action in both the public and private sectors, and schools and hospitals are also affected.

But torrential rain in Athens has limited public protests, with both main unions cancelling their rallies.

Greece has held more than 30 general strikes since early 2010.

Unemployment stands at nearly 28% after massive public sector cuts and tax rises to reduce its fiscal deficit.

Greece has been granted two bailouts totalling about 240bn euros (£202bn; $323bn) to help cover holes in its financing, and there is speculation it will need a third package of at least 11bn euros next year.

image captionFerries remained moored in the port of Piraeus, near Athens.
image captionSuburban railway stations shut down.
image captionTrade union posters urged support for the strike in Athens.
image captionThere were angry scenes in front of the finance ministry on Tuesday when troika auditors visited.

At issue just now is the latest instalment from the second bailout, worth 1bn euros. The payment must be approved by the troika of lenders: the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The troika says there is a budget gap of 2.5bn euros for next year that may require more austerity but the government argues the country cannot take any more.

Greece has predicted that it will emerge from its six-year long recession next year, in a sign it may be finally recovering from its debt crisis.

However, recovery for Europe's sick man remains a slow and painful process that could yet take years to achieve, the BBC's Mark Lowen reports from Athens.

Two separate protest marches to parliament in Athens were called off due to bad weather.

But smaller groups of mainly Communist Party supporters still braved the driving rain, according to reports.

Meanwhile thousands of people marched in Greece's second city Thessaloniki.

Ferry, rail and some air services are still being disrupted by Wednesday's action. Air traffic controllers have stopped work for several hours.

"Workers, pensioners and the unemployed are going through an endless nightmare," port workers said in a statement.

"The government and the troika are destroying this country."

The public sector union Adedy said in a statement: "United we can stop them, we can topple them."

When troika auditors arrived at the finance ministry in Athens on Tuesday, a protester flung coins at its leader, Poul Thomsen. The attacker was arrested but reportedly later released.