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Thousands of Greek protesters tell Merkel she is not welcome

ATHENS, Oct 8 (Reuters) - About 8,000 demonstrators chantedanti-austerity slogans and hoisted banners warning Angela Merkelshe was not welcome in Greece at a protest on Monday, the eve ofa visit by the German chancellor.

Organised by labour unions fed up with wage and benefit cutsduring three years of austerity, the demonstration was calledbefore Merkel announced she was coming to Greece in a gesture ofsupport for the government's fiscal reform efforts.

But protesters did not miss the opportunity to vent theiranger at Merkel, whose insistence on a tough reform programmemany Greeks blame for their country's plight. The main banner infront of parliament was a large German flag emblazoned with thewords "Angela, you are not welcome!".

"We want Merkel to leave Greece alone because her measuresonly bring poverty," said protester Antigone Beza, 48, an Athenssaleswoman. "We will fight and we will resist and we will shout'Go home!'"

Greece is preparing extensive security measures forTuesday's six-hour visit, Merkel's first to Greece since thedebt crisis erupted there in 2009.

Police have banned gatherings in most of central Athens andwill deploy 6,000 police as well as anti-terrorist units androoftop snipers.

The German leader, who has been caricatured as a Nazi in theGreek press, has softened her rhetoric in recent months,apparently having decided that Greece should stay in the eurozone for now.

The Greek government is in negotiations with internationallenders on more budget cuts to secure the vital next instalmentof a 130-billion-euro bailout keeping Athens afloat. Themeasures are sure to prompt more protests.

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

((dina.kyriakidou@thomsonreuters.com)(+302103376433)(Reuters

Messaging: dina.kyriakidou.reuters.com@reuters.net))

Keywords: GREECE PROTEST/