President Bill Clinton has arrived in Florence from Athens for a meeting of international centre-left leaders focusing on globalisation, reform of state welfare programmes and equality. Mr. Clinton's 22-hour visit to the Greek capital, was marked by violent protests arising from NATO's military campaign over Kosovo. Before boarding Air Force One, President Clinton rejected the criticism by Greek protesters of NATO's air war over Kosovo. The violence began after police fired dozens of rounds of tear gas on around 10,000 protestors who were marching towards the US embassy.

Mr Clinton met with Greek officials this morning under strict security following the violence demonstrations. Dozens of banks, offices and shops were burned or damaged as thousands of left-wing protestors threw petrol-bombs and clashed with police. The Clintons' visit was cut short as a result of the demonstrations.

The demonstrators were protesting at the American bombing of Serbia during the Kosovo crisis earlier this year, and at Washington's support for the military junta that ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974. The Greek authorities blamed the violence on anarchists. The incidents are described as the most violent protests against Mr Clinton in his seven years in office. The president ignored the rioting and spoke in favour of a reconciliation between Turkey and Greece, as well as a political solution in the divided island of Cyprus.