Greece: 4,000 police on duty for anti-austerity protests

Thousands of police officers took up positions around Greece's second-largest city Friday as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met senior U.S. officials at a trade fair where protests of the Greek government's austerity measures were planned.

The Thessaloniki police department said more than 4,000 officers will be on duty in the northern city Saturday, when Tsipras plans to outline his economic platform for a country emerging from a decade of international bailout measures. Many previous protests at the annual trade fair turned violent.

U.S. security personnel were helping with the event because Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is in Thessaloniki with a delegation of executives from more than 50 American companies. Ross met Tsipras Friday and said he was encouraged by Greece's developing financial recovery.

"It's good to see things are starting to turn around," Ross said. "The economy seems to be getting better, and there's a real feel of momentum coming in, so it's very rewarding to see that."

The United States is eager to expand trade and military cooperation with Greece given its strained diplomatic relations with neighboring Turkey over the detention of an American pastor and U.S. sanctions on its NATO ally.

Greece completed its final rescue program last month and is keen to secure greater overseas investment. The country faces a staggering national debt of nearly 180 percent of gross domestic product.

In Thessaloniki, trade unions and left-wing and anarchist groups plan to stage protests Saturday around the fair venue. Their agenda includes restoration of worker benefits axed during three successive international bailouts.

Right-wing groups also were set to stage protests over a proposed deal that would help Macedonia join NATO.

Tsipras is scheduled to inaugurate the trade fair Saturday and to deliver a widely anticipated speech on his government's post-bailout financial strategy.


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