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Clinton Praises 'Vital' Austerity Measures in Greece

CNN Wire Staff

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gestures as she shows her support for the US women's football team who are playing in the World Cup final against Japan later Sunday, as she leaves a press conference with Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis at the Foreign Ministry in Athens Sunday July 17, 2011. While demonstrators once again took to the street against imposed austerity, Clinton championed the measures, calling them 'vital'. (AP Photo / Saul Loeb)

ATHENS, Greece -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday the United States strongly supports the austerity measures that Greece has taken to try to avert potential financial disaster.

"We stand by the people and government of Greece as you put your country back to the path of economic stability," Clinton said during a visit to the country.

Clinton spoke to reporters along with Stavros Lambrinidis, who serves as minister of foreign affairs under Prime Minister George Papandreou.

"Americans know these are difficult days," Clinton said. "The U.S. strongly supports the Papandreou government in its determination to make the necessary reforms to put Greece on sound economic footing, making Greece competitive economically."

At the end of June, the Greek Parliament voted to implement another round of austerity measures in hopes of avoiding defaulting on the government's debt.

The decision came amid a new round of large-scale protests in the streets, with riot police firing tear gas.

Demonstrators rejected measures including reductions in the pay of public workers and social security funding and an increase in the attrition of public jobs. Last year an austerity package included pension cuts, higher taxes, and a hike in retirement age to 65 from as low as 61.

Many of the protesters were young people who have been particularly hard-hit by high unemployment and who blame rich tax-dodgers for the nation's fiscal woes.

Clinton said the measures the government took "are vital first steps. They are not easy, but acts of leadership which will help Greece with a better economic future."

"Payoff for sacrifices won't come easy but will come," Clinton said, adding that the "price of inaction would be worse."

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