Rallies in Athens, Europe ahead of bailout talks

Athens (AFP) - Tens of thousands of people joined rallies in Greece on Sunday ahead of talks in Brussels on the new leftist government's bid to revise its massive bailout.

Supporters also gathered in several European capitals on the eve of the meeting of eurozone finance ministers to join Greece in calling for a radical revision of the Europe's austerity policies.

The rally outside the parliament in Athens drew some 20,000 people, police said, who cheered as a demonstrator swooped through the crowds wearing a large papier-mache yellow plane, with "Greece is taking off" written on its side.

"We want justice here and now... for all the suffering Greece has gone through the past five years," 58-year-old Theodora, who has been unemployed for the last three years, told AFP.

A protester wearing a mask of German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and wielding a large plastic needle with "austerity" daubed on it jousted with a fake Greek premier Alexis Tsipras armed with a huge pair of red scissors.

"I'm not afraid of anything, whatever bad was going to happen has already happened," 62-year-old pensioner Vimitra told AFP, referring to five years of severe austerity in the debt-laden country.

Former teacher Vassiliki Pikazi said the situation was now "better in terms of our emotions, our souls, our hearts" thanks to Tsipras and his refusal to bow to Brussels.

- 'Goliath of finance' -

Around 8,000 people also thronged the streets in Thessaloniki, Greece's second biggest city in the north of the country, calling on Brussels to loosen the noose of austerity.

Greece is hoping to renegotiate its mammoth 240 billion-euro bailout, but its overtures to its international creditors have so far fallen on deaf ears, with paymaster Germany unwilling to reverse its policy on austerity.

Athens risks being forced out of the eurozone if a deal is not found by the end of the month.

In Paris, around 2,000 people walked through the city centre in a show of solidarity against what organisers called "the Goliath of finance".

Marchers unfurled flags from the hard-left Syriza party of their new prime minister and chanted: "In Greece, in France, resistance against austerity and finance."

In Lisbon about 300 people took to the streets with banners reading "Greece, Spain, Portugal, our battle is international."

"We want to express our solidarity with the Greek people to defend their right to decide their own future," said Paulo Coimbra, a 46-year old economist and one of the organisers of the march.

"We contest austerity in Portugal as well, it's time to say 'enough' to the grip financial power has on political power," he added.

Close to 100 people also rallied in the centre of Madrid, including 60-year-old Maria Robles who was holding up a placard in English reading "Greece, Yes, Merkel and ECB, no", in a reference to the German chancellor.

In Greece "they are in the process of opening up a path which should be followed by all those subject to the troika and the financial sectors," she said referring to the three international bailout creditors.

She slammed "a frontal attack by the financial capital on European citizens" in a barbed reference to Brussels.