Thousands protest German Chancellor Merkel's visit to Greece

Tens of thousands defied a ban in Greece Tuesday to protest the visit of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in what police say was one of the biggest demonstrations in months, Reuters reports.

Paying her first visit to Greece in five years, Merkel's arrival triggered protests attended by some 50,000 demonstrators in Athens.

Greeks blame Merkel for enacting painful cuts on the country in exchange for two European Union-International Monetary Fund bailout packages, Reuters reports.

Police used stun grenades and teargas on protesters when they tried to break through a barrier that was placed outside an office where Merkel was meeting with Greek Prime Minister Samaras.

In return, protesters hit cops with sticks, rocks and bottles. More than 50 people were detained throughout the day.

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    Merkel, who stopped in Athens on Tuesday for five hours, said she hoped Greece would remain in the 17-country group that uses the nation eurozone and stressed the government in Athens still had to push through more key cost-cutting reforms.

    "Much of the ground has been covered ... There is daily progress," Merkel said after her talks with Antonis Samaras. "This is an effort that should be seen through because otherwise it would make the circumstances even more dramatic later on."

    Although Merkel damped expectations in Athens of a strong public pledge to keep Greece in the eurozone, Samaras said Merkel's visit had ended "the country's international isolation."

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.