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Patience, Angela Merkel tells Greeks in visit

Her visit ignites Athens protests

About 7,000 police were on hand in Athens during protests against austerity plans.

Yannis Behrakis/Reuters

About 7,000 police were on hand in Athens during protests against austerity plans.

ATHENS — With thousands of police reinforcements on duty to shield her from rowdy protesters who see her as the archvillain of the euro crisis and their national pain, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany was greeted by the Greek prime minister as ‘‘a friend of Greece’’ and tried to reassure the Greek people she was here not ‘‘as a teacher, to give grades’’ but rather as ‘‘a real partner.’’

But furious Greeks held rallies and protests that included a job walkout by civil servants, including teachers and doctors. A small group burned a flag bearing a Nazi swastika while four protesters in Nazi-style uniforms drew cheers as they rode past a police cordon.

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Merkel’s visit stands as the high point of her recent efforts to show a renewed dedication to European solidarity but coincides with a report from the International Monetary Fund that underscored challenges ahead.

Greece would miss its five-year target for debt reduction, the report said, with indebtedness falling to 152.8 percent of gross domestic product in 2017, against the goal of 137.3 percent, according to the Associated Press. Greece is not apt to begin generating surpluses to pare debt until 2016, two years later than hoped.

At a joint news conference with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, Merkel said Greece must make good on its commitments to creditors but acknowledged the suffering Greeks have endured.

“I am convinced that the path, which is a difficult path, will lead to success,’’ she said.

She called for patience during Greece’s negotiations with foreign lenders. Cuts worth $17.4 billion would secure a $40.8 billion loan; without those funds, the country faces default in late November.

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