World News Brief, Thursday December 11

Greek riots become anti-government protests; Britain plans to leave Iraq in March, new agreement to re-shape Thai politics; Chinese detain human rights protesters; and more

Top of the Agenda: Greek Protests Spread

What began five days ago in Greece as targeted protests have spread into large-scale anti-government demonstrations that news reports say could pose a significant challenge for the Greek government. Unrest began in the country after police in Exarchia, a central district known as a base for anarchist activity, shot and killed a fifteen-year old school boy, prompting days of riots from Greek anarchists in a few cities. Today, however, the scene shifted and broadened dramatically, with thousands of demonstrators seizing the moment and turning up in front of Greece's parliament to stage a general protest (BBC) against the government's economic policies, and the country's unions holding a general strike that grounded flights, closed schools and banks, and reduced hospital capacity. The Financial Times reports about one hundred protestors threw fire bombs at police, who used teargas to try to control the demonstration.

Kathimerini, the Greek English-language newspaper, reports the escalation of tensions follows a failed attempt by Greece's Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis to find common ground with opposition leaders. The Economist says Karamanlis appears increasingly vulnerable--his party holds a majority of just one seat in the 300-seat parliament, and he is increasingly unpopular in opinion polls. Moreover, the piece says, Karamanlis has ignored calls for social reform, particularly in education, health, and policing, fueling tensions that have in part worked to fan the current protests. A news analysis from the BBC, meanwhile, says the riots seem likely to continue for the near-term future, adding that a culture of rebellion is deeply embedded in the Greek national psyche.

The Guardian has an article reporting on the various grievances of the demonstrators, in their words. The New York Times has a photo slideshow of the demonstrations.


Pacific Rim: Thai Political Questions

The Bangkok Post reports on meetings between Thailand's Democrat party and several members of the previous coalition government, saying they marked an unlikely coming-together of minds, but that the leaders involved seem to have come to terms on an agreement that could well shape the future of Thai politics.

CHINA: The BBC reports Chinese police detained dozens of protestors from human rights groups who were holding demonstrations in Beijing on the anniversary of the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

- A new Backgrounder looks at problems facing the newly constituted UN Human Rights Council, which replaced its predecessor, the UN Commission on Human Rights, in 2006.



British military official indicates Iraq pullout could begin in March.
Czech Republic delays EU Lisbon Treaty vote.

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