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Portugal's highest court to asses state budget

Passengers stand by idle trains at Lisbon's Cais do Sodre train station during a strike by Portuguese trains engineers, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. Portuguese engineers train union called for a partial strikes during January against wage cuts at extra hours, weekends and holidays shifts. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

LISBON, Portugal (AP) -- Bailed-out Portugal's president has asked the country's Constitutional Court to check whether new austerity measures included in this year's state budget are lawful.

The government says the steep tax hikes and welfare cuts in its 2013 spending plan are needed to pull the country out of its debt hole. Portugal needed a €78 billion ($103 billion) bailout in May 2011 to avert bankruptcy as it was engulfed by the eurozone's financial crisis.

President Anibal Cavaco Silva said in his annual New Year's message broadcast late Tuesday that he signed the budget into law because Portugal cannot afford a political crisis.

But, with opposition parties promising to challenge the budget in the courts, the head of state said he wanted to make sure the steps taking away long-standing entitlements are permissible.