7,000 police deployed in Athens for Merkel visit

ATHENS -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to Greece, the first since the outbreak of the debt crisis in 2009, has seen 7,000 police deployed in the city.


The authorities also banned rallies in the central parts of Athens on Tuesday.

During her six-hour visit extensive security measures will be in place, including deployment of special anti-terrorist units, while water cannons are on standby, according to reports.

Steffen Seibert, Merkel's spokesman, said she would bring "a message of support for the ambitious austerity measures already undertaken in Athens, with the encouragement to continue the efforts".

Merkel landed in Athens around noon. The streets leading to the seat of the Greek government are completely blocked, helicopters monitor the ride from the airport, while snipers are deployed on the roofs of the Greek government building.

Any gathering at a distance of 100 meters from the route through which will pass the German chancellor, is forbidden, but it is expected that two protests will still be held in the city.

The short visit coincides with increasing dissatisfaction among the Greeks with the new austerity measures.

Minister of Public Order Nikos Dendias urged protesters to "protect peace and above all the perspective and the international image of the country."

Greek trade unions organized last night, on the eve of the visit of the German chancellor, protests against wage reductions and elimination of exemptions over the past three years.

Demonstrators did not miss the opportunity to vent their displeasure at Merkel, whose insistence on strict austerity measures many Greeks see as the reason for the poor state in which the country found itself, Reuters reported.

Among the banners put up on front of the parliament, most were proclaiming "Angela, you're not welcome." The protesters also chanted slogans against austerity measures.