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Samaras insists government is strong, calls SYRIZA two-faced

With pressure from international creditors and on the domestic political front rising, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras insisted on Friday that Greece is on track with its economic reforms and that his government will not suffer losses in European Parliament elections in May.

His assurances came against a background of speculation that troika envoys will not return to Athens next week as expected due to the lack of progress with pending structural reforms pledged by Athens in return for continued rescue funding.

The list of pending reforms is expected to dominate talks on Saturday between Samaras and his coalition partner Evangelos Venizelos.

Rising political tensions, corruption scandals and other domestic problems are also likely to be discussed.

At a press briefing for foreign correspondents Friday, Samaras fielded questions on domestic upheaval and insisted his government was tough enough to endure upcoming polls. “The pro-European parties will do very well in the elections and my party will do well,” Samaras said, noting that the first positive signs of his government’s reforms will be tangible by the May polls. Asked if he could envisage a cooperation between conservative New Democracy and leftist opposition SYRIZA as part of a grand coalition if necessary, Samaras ruled out such an eventuality, describing SYRIZA as an “out-and-out anti-European party” and accusing it of having a “schizophrenic” approach to policy. “It says one thing about the euro when abroad and another when addressing Greek citizens,” he said.

The PM’s comments came amid fresh tensions between ND and SYRIZA after the former suggested that the leftists have ties to terrorism following the disappearance of convicted November 17 member Christodoulos Xeros, who absconded while on furlough. The row prompted upheaval within the leftist ranks, with outspoken MP Petros Tatsopoulos conceding that some of his peers may share ideals espoused by leftist guerrilla groups.

After a meeting on Friday with party leader Alexis Tsipras, Tatsopoulos was dismissed from SYRIZA’s parliamentary group. In a letter to Parliament President Evangelos Meimerakis, he announced that he would stand as an independent, reducing SYRIZA’s presence in the House from 71 to 72.

ekathimerini.com , Friday Jan 10, 2014 (19:51)  
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