Thousands protest against German austerity drive

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Thousands gathered in Berlin on Saturday proclaiming "we will not pay for your crisis", as protests in Germany mounted against Chancellor Angela Merkel's major austerity drive.

"From Athens to Berlin -- banks and companies must pay for the crisis", said some banners, while others stated: "The name of the crisis is capitalism".

Between 15,000 and 20,000 people gathered in the German capital, while between 10,000 and 20,000 gathered in the southwest city of Stuttgart, according to police estimates and organisers.

The German government announced on Monday major spending cuts, pledging to find around 11.2 billion euros (13.4 billion dollars) in savings in next year's budget.

The plans had a withering response from parliamentary opposition, unions and the press, who charged Merkel with making savings on the backs of the poor, as the biggest cuts target unemployment and parental leave benefits.

In a poll by the television channel ARD, 79 percent of Germans said the austerity plan was not socially balanced.

© 2010 AFP

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