Three people have died in central Athens in a fire during huge street protests against new Greek austerity measures designed to avoid a national bankruptcy.
Authorities say the victims died in a burning bank building apparently set on fire by protesters.
Across much of central Athens Wednesday, riot police armed with stun grenades and tear gas fought running street battles with rock-throwing protesters angered by the looming spending cuts.
Television footage showed police using tear gas to keep some 50 protesters from storming the parliament building. Violence also erupted in the northern city of Salonika.
Prime Minister George Papandreou submitted an austerity bill to parliament Tuesday containing $40 billion in budget cuts.
A vote on the bill is expected this week, as the European Union and the International Monetary Fund prepare a $145-billion bailout package aimed at keeping Greece from defaulting on a key loan repayment due May 19.
The Greek budget measures include cuts to civil service pensions and wage freezes, which many say will disproportionately hurt the poor.
Germany, which will provide a large share of the bailout, has warned that the loans could be halted if Greece fails to approve the austerity measures.
Wednesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the German parliament to approve the country's $30-billion share of the bailout by Friday. Ms. Merkel said Europe's fate is at stake, and that other countries using the euro currency could face serious trouble if the Greek rescue fails.
Investor concerns about the Greek debt crisis continued to hurt stock markets in Europe Wednesday.
Major European stock indexes were lower in late afternoon trading, with the main Greek index tumbling almost three percent. Greek share prices plunged more than six percent Tuesday.