German Chancellor Angela Merkel will travel to Greece on Tuesday for talks with leaders eager for her support to avoid bankruptcy and remain in the eurozone as angry Greeks prepare to protest against her austerity drive.
A huge security operation is underway to secure Merkel's six-hour visit, her first to Greece since the debt crisis broke out three years ago. More than 7,000 policemen, including snipers, have been deployed in Athens to secure the route of Merkel's motorcade.
Police have imposed a ban on demonstrations in many areas in central Athens.
The ban will not affect two separate demonstrations organized by trade unions and opposition parties to coincide with Merkel's arrival at 1:30 pm (1030 GMT) for talks with Prime Minister Minister Antonis Samaras.
The coalition government headed by Samaras wants more leeway in implementing spending cuts demanded by Greece's international creditors in return for bailout funds.
The daily Kathimerini newspaper said Samaras hopes to secure Merkel's approval for a more lenient austerity package, which Greece is negotiating with the European Union, International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.
Merkel's visit has been interpreted as a sign of her determination to prevent a Greek exit from the eurozone. It is also a show of support for Samaras's reform programme.
A large majority of Greeks blame Merkel for demanding painful cuts
in exchange for the bailout. Greece has been in recession for five years and has been asking for more time in implementing austerity measures to allow a return to growth.
Samaras wants to scale down the highly unpopular cuts, worth 13.5-billion-euros (17.5-billion-dollars), to avoid harming salaries and pensions. Critics say the cuts will push Greece to a sixth year of recession in 2013.
Merkel will also meet Greek President Karolos Papoulias and representatives of German and Greek industry.
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