Greece orders striking lorry drivers back to work

Cars line up at a petrol station in Athens on 28 July 2010
Image caption The strike has caused fuel shortages across the country

The Greek government has used a rare emergency order to force lorry drivers back to work after a three-day strike.

The drivers have until later on Thursday to return to the roads or face arrest and the loss of their licences.

Most petrol stations in Athens are out of fuel and shops and factories are running low on supplies.

The drivers oppose government plans to open the industry to more competition as part of austerity measures agreed with the IMF and the EU.

The reform is a key part of the multi-billion dollar EU-IMF package intended to pull Greece out of its debt crisis.

Members of the drivers' union said they would not back down and dared the government to seize their lorries.

"Leonidas with his 300 warriors said 'Come and get it'. We say the same: come and get it," said one of the organisers of the strike, Spyros Kapetanios.

Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said the drivers would not be allowed to hold "Greek society hostage".

He added: "No one has the right to paralyse the country - no one."

The back to work order was issued hours after negotiations between the government and the drivers broke down.

The national emergency provision is usually reserved for times of war or natural disaster.

The country's tourism industry said it was suffering from the strike, with bookings down and many cancellations.

A series of strikes over the government's austerity measures has already hit the country.

The Greek government is aiming to slash the budget deficit from 13.6% of gross domestic product (GDP) to below 3% by 2014.

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