Hopes rise for breakthrough in Greek political drama
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Last Updated: Sunday, November 06, 2011, 18:34
  
Athens: A breakthrough in Greece's damaging political stalemate seemed increasingly likely on Sunday as the opposition leader said a deal on a unity government was possible if Prime Minister George Papandreou resigns.

Amid dire warnings that the country is about to run out of cash and growing anger at the squabbling, Antonis Samaras said the debt-wracked country had to give a message of stability to the outside world.

"As long as Papandreou has not decided what he wants to do, it is blocking any solution," said Samaras, head of the centre-right opposition New Democracy party.

"I have decided to help. If he resigns, everything will follow its course," Samaras said after a brief meeting with President Carolos Papoulias designed to break the deadlock.

"We need to send a message of stability and confidence to the outside world and stability and normality domestically," Samaras said in a televised exchange with Papoulias. "Everyone needs to assume their responsibilities," Samaras added.

Papoulias replied: "You said what I wanted to hear." Papandreou -- who has indicated he is prepared to step aside for the good of the country -- was set to hold an emergency cabinet meeting at 4:00 pm (1930 IST).

Talks over forming a unity government Papandreou says is vital to pass a much-needed EU bailout plan and keep Greece in the euro have also been bogged down over the issue of elections.

Samaras have called for snap polls, whereas Papandreou has said this would be a "catastrophe."

Meanwhile, the Greek media and people were growing increasingly exasperated at the squabbling of their leaders.

Sunday's edition of Kathimerini blasted the politicians for petty squabbling as the country faces its deepest economic crisis in decades. "Haggling on the Titanic," the paper screamed on its front page.

"The country needs a new government by Monday to avoid bankruptcy and the drachma," it said, in reference to Greece's old currency.

Meanwhile, polls published in the Sunday papers showed that the people are largely in favour of a unity government and passionately want to keep the euro.

The cabinet discussions later in the day were to prepare the ground for a meeting of eurozone finance ministers tomorrow.

The EU ministers will debate whether the conditions are in place to release an eight billion euro (USD 11 billion) slice of bailout cash that Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos says is needed by December 15.

And there will be no let-up in the pressure on Athens to implement fierce austerity measures in return for bailout cash.

The eurozone finance ministers "will certainly reiterate their desire to see all the main parties subscribe to the adjustment programme," said a European government source in Brussels.

Ratcheting up the pressure on politicians to put aside their differences, a government spokesman announced late yesterday that Athens had only seven weeks to put the terms of the EU rescue package in place.

"According to the non-negotiable timetable ... of the European Summit (where the plan was agreed), the new agreement needs to be ratified in parliament by the end of 2011," spokesman Ilias Mossialos said in a statement.

PTI


First Published: Sunday, November 06, 2011, 10:10


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