By Vittorio Hernandez

Athens, Greece

Despite the start of a 48-hour general strike initiated by Greek unions, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has not given up hope that the financially embattled country could still get the second tranche of its bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Papandreou appealed on Monday for legislators from his party and the opposition to support the austerity plan, which is a condition set by the EU and IMF for the release of the money.

The prime minister saw the need to make the urgent appeal to lawmakers because of the slim lead of his party in the legislative assembly. Not all members of the party had committed to support the austerity plan.

Papandreou pointed out that the $40 billion (EUR 28 billion) austerity program could help Greece rise again from its financial hole.

Ahead of the Parliament vote on the austerity program, thousands of Greek protesters gathered in Athens as part of the 48-hour general strike organized by trade unions to show their opposition to the cost-cutting measures.

The demonstrators have scheduled a march toward parliament at 10 a.m. of Tuesday. In anticipation of violence, the government deployed more than 5,000 police officers to the capital Athens to provide security and disperse the crowds if they become unruly.

The industrial action is expected to be participated in by government workers, transport employees, doctors, ambulance drivers, journalists and even actors who are funded by the state.

Public transport is expected to be paralyzed as ferry, bus, train and airport workers walk off their jobs. The country's airports are expected to be shuttered since air traffic controllers are striking from 8 a.m. to 12 noon and 6 to 10 p.m.


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