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Greece bans protests at EU ministers' meetings

A pedestrian passes a docked ferry during a 48-hour strike by Greek ferry workers in Athens' port of Piraeus, on Monday, March 31, 2014. Seamen are angry at a new law that will weaken their salary negotiating powers. Greece's Parliament passed an omnibus reform bill early Monday containing the latest measures agreed upon between Greece and international lenders, with the slim government majority holding despite suffering new defections. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greek authorities have banned demonstrations in much of central Athens to forestall planned anti-austerity protests at this week's meetings of European Union finance ministers.

Labor unions and leftwing groups have called for three separate rallies Tuesday outside the prohibited area, but it was unclear whether demonstrators would challenge police cordons and try to reach Parliament, the customary focal point for protests.

Discussions at Tuesday and Wednesday's meetings will include Greece's austerity program and market reforms demanded under the terms of its international bailouts.

Deeply-resented spending cuts and tax hikes since 2010 have slashed incomes and fuelled a deep recession that Greece hopes to pull out of this year, while unemployment is a record 28 percent.

Strikes and protests have been common, and ferry seamen on Monday started rolling two-day walkouts.