ATHENS: Greek lawmakers approved drastic austerity cuts yesterday needed to secure international rescue loans worth €110 billion.

Lawmakers voted 172-121 to approve the austerity measures - worth about €30 billion through 2012 - that will slash pensions and civil servants' pay and further raise taxes.

The rescue loans are aimed at containing the debt crisis and keeping Greece's troubles from spreading to other countries with vulnerable state finances such as Portugal and Spain. The money will come from the International Monetary Fund and the 15 other Governments whose countries use the euro.

Opposition parties lambasted the Government for imposing measures that are too harsh for the population to bear.

"The dose of the medicine you are administering is in danger of killing the patient," conservative opposition leader Antonis Samaras said.

Prime Minister George Papandreou expelled three Socialist deputies who dissented in the vote, reducing the party's number of seats to 157 in the 300-member Parliament.

"We have done what was necessary, not what was easy," Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said after the vote. "Without these measures, we'd be thrown into the deepest recession this country has ever known."

Samaras also expelled a dissenting lawmaker, former Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, reducing his share of parliamentary seats to 90.

Papaconstantinou said Greece would default on debt payments this month unless it received the bailout loans from the International Monetary Fund and 15 euro-zone countries that had remained divided for months on how to aid Athens.

"Today things are simple. Either we vote and implement the deal, or we condemn Greece to bankruptcy," Papandreou told Parliament before the vote.

"Some people want that, and are speculating on it, and hope that it will happen," he said, referring to speculative attacks that have been blamed for raising Greece's borrowing costs to unsustainable levels.

"We, I, will not allow that. We will not allow speculation against our country, and bankruptcy to happen."

European Governments are now scrambling to get parliamentary approval for the Greek loans. European leaders will discuss the issue in Brussels today.

- AP