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Greece hopes to deter heavily armed robbers with new law giving life prison sentences

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A homeless man sits on an old sofa on a pedestrian street in the northern port city of Thessaloniki , Greece, on Monday, Jan. 7, 2013. Greece has entered a sixth year of economic recession, and faces record high unemployment and homelessness rates as it struggles to tackle an acute financial crisis that has forced drastic cuts in state spending. (AP Photo/Nikolas Giakoumidis)The Associated Press

Greek lawmakers are seeking to contain a spate of attacks by armed robbers using military assault rifles by upping the maximum sentence for such offences to life in prison.

Under draft legislation made public Monday, the new penalties will apply for those using the Russian-designed AK-47, or Kalashnikov, rifle and other similar weapons. Current laws give convicts 10-25 years in prison in such cases.

The inexpensive Kalashnikovs have become increasingly popular with Greek criminals, who use them to rob kiosks, supermarkets or homes — heavily out-gunning local police. Such attacks have grown since the country's acute financial crisis started three years ago.

Thousands of the weapons have flooded into Greece from neighboring Albania, where military bases were looted during riots in 1997.