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Scuffles erupt between protesters & police in Athens

It’s understood the clashes broke as a rally got under way in support of ‘no’ vote in a Sunday referendum.

FILE: Protesters participate in a demonstration calling for a ‘No’ vote in the forthcoming referendum on bailout conditions set by the country’s creditors, in front of the Greek parliament in Athens on 29 June 2015. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Police threw stun grenades and scuffles broke out with protesters in central Athens on Friday.

It's understood the clashes broke as a rally got under way in support of a 'no' vote in a Sunday referendum on whether to endorse an aid deal with creditors.

The scuffles involved a few dozen people, many dressed in black and wearing helmets.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called on voters to reject European warnings that Greeks will be deciding on their future in the Eurozone in a referendum on Sunday.

"The IMF published a report on Greece's economy which is a great thing for the Greek government as it confirms the obvious; the Geek debt is not sustainable. They say we should be given 20 years to get back on track. This proposal has never been put forward despite the five months of negotiations. It's left to the Greek public to decide on Sunday."

He says negotiations will continue for a better deal with international creditors after the vote.

He accused the European partners of blackmailing and giving them ultimatums.

The leftist leader called for calm ahead of Sunday's ballot as two opinion polls show 'yes' and 'no' camps.

Meanwhile, journalist Panos Polyzoidis says Sunday's referendum will sway the credibility of some politicians particularly if the yes camp takes the majority.

"Tsipras and some of his leadership have vowed to keep on but politically it will have be a heavy defeat if the 'yes' camp win. Their credibility will have been shaken possibility irreparably.

CONSEQUENCES OF A 'NO'

"We are asking them to vote with their eyes open and think hard about all the consequences of a 'No' vote, which could lead Greece to leave the euro zone," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on the sidelines of an economic summit in Lyon.

The comment reflected the fear of many in the euro zone that a Greek exit would change the nature of a 15-year-old currency union intended to be unbreakable.

For Tsipras, if voters back a bailout plan that he has scorned, his government is likely to fall, leading to new elections by September.

Already, his coalition is crumbling as a succession of deputies from the right-wing Independent Greeks, his junior partners, have backed the 'Yes' vote.

Tsipras and his finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, remain convinced Athens can negotiate better terms, including debt relief, if voters reject the conditions on offer. But both have signalled they will quit if voters choose the bailout.

"I want to believe that these problems won't last long," Tsipras said on Thursday of the bank closures. "The banks will open when there is a deal," he said in a television interview, predicting it would come within 48 hours of the referendum.

The only full survey to be released since the referendum was announced showed the "No" vote ahead, but falling sharply after the announcement that banks would be shut.