Athens: Critical last-ditch talks to form a coalition government in crisis-struck Greece floundered once more on Sunday, leading the country one step closer to new elections, although the socialist party leader said he retained `existing but limited` optimism for a deal.
The political uncertainty has alarmed the international creditors who have given Greece billions of euros in bailout loans over the past two years, and has thrown the country`s continued presence in the European Union`s joint currency into serious doubt.
President Karolos Papoulias convened the heads of the parties that came in the top three spots in last Sunday`s inconclusive elections, in an ultimate effort to broker an agreement after a week of talks led to deadlock.
The meeting ended without a solution, but the process continues while the President holds individual meetings with the leaders of smaller parties that made it into Parliament.
Voters furious at the handling of Greece`s financial crisis and two years of harsh austerity measures taken in return for billions of euros in international bailout loans punished the formerly dominant socialist PASOK and conservative New Democracy parties in the elections.
The two saw their support crumble to the lowest point in decades, while Radical Left Coalition, or Syriza, made big gains to come in second place after campaigning on an anti-bailout platform.
The PASOK and New Democracy leaders could form a coalition with the smaller Democratic Left party of Fotis Kouvelis combined they would have 168 seats in the 300-member Parliament.
New Democracy won 18.9 percent last Sunday while PASOK garnered just 13.2 percent, compared to nearly 44 percent in the last elections in 2009. Kouvelis` 6.1 percent put him in a kingmaker position, with 19 seats.
But all three insist any power-sharing deal must include Syriza, led by the 38-year-old Alexis Tsipras, given its strong showing at the ballot box.