BEIRUT (AFP) - Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou appealed to Arab nations in Beirut on Thursday to invest in his cash-strapped country, touting it as investment friendly with a dynamic business environment. Greece is changing rapidly and... we invite you all to join us, whether it is visiting Greece , whether it is investing in Greece , or whether it is working with Greece on common projects in the region for a better future for all of our countries, Papandreou said at the opening of a two-day Arab Economic Forum. As he spoke, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Athens and Greeces second city, Thessaloniki, in a new general strike against the governments debt-dictated austerity spending cuts and pension reform. The reforms are aimed at tackling a huge deficit that has dented international confidence in the Greek economy, frightening potential investors and lenders. But at the forum, Papandreou put a brave face on things. Greece today is an opportunity for new business, but also an opportunity to further strengthen our historical and cultural ties, Papandreou said. We are limiting bureaucracy, making our economy investment friendly. We are passing new legislation so that new companies can... (obtain a) licence right away, while in the past it took many months, he added. Papandreou said that, despite the global financial downturn, economic relations between Greece and the Arab countries had risen significantly. He said commercial transactions had risen by nearly 35 percent over the past several years. Last year, the volume of trade between Greece and the 18 countries of the Middle East, Gulf and North Africa amounted to 5 billion euros, and Greek exports to those countries accounted for nine percent of all Greek exports, Papandreou said. With respect to reforms, he said: We have done in the past few months what we should have done over the past few decades.