Greece: Austerity taxes for 'as long as needed'

Riot police restrain a protesting cleaning staff worker at the side entrance of the Finance Ministry, in Athens, on Wednesday, March 26, 2014. Police forcibly expelled the protesters, who have lost their jobs in austerity staff cuts, from the ministry building after a request was denied for protest representatives to meet ministry officials. (AP Photo/Kostis Ntantamis)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greece's finance minister says an unpopular austerity tax will be extended for "as long as needed" to keep the budget deficit within limits set by bailout lenders.

The tax, known as the solidarity surcharge, typically added several thousand euros on middle-income households' annual tax bills.

The levy was due to end next year, but Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told private Skai radio Wednesday it would be imposed until improvements in Greece's public finances become "permanent and sustainable."

Protests, meanwhile, continued against a new austerity deal reached with bailout lenders this month. Pharmacies around most of the country closed in protest at new licensing rules. And in central Athens, riot police forcibly removed protesting cleaning staff affected by recent state job cuts from inside the Finance Ministry.