NEWS

ND to vote against economic strategy

New Democracy will today vote against the bill containing the government's latest austerity measures, sources confirmed yesterday, thereby formally putting an end to a brief period of consensus with PASOK. Sources said that the conservatives will only back certain articles of the draft law when it is voted on in Parliament today, as the government attempts to urgently push through the measures aimed at generating 4.8 billion euros. ND leader Antonis Samaras made his most outspoken attack yet on the government shortly after the measures were announced Wednesday, labeling them an «asphyxiating mixture» of policies. Samaras said he would not cut civil servants' pay but would instead increase taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and fuel while also cutting back on the operational costs of the public sector. He criticized PASOK for not taking measures earlier and admitted that ND had made mistakes when it was in government but underlined that the party is now under new leadership. The conservatives have also tried to take a neutral stand on the protests by unions, who have planned a series of protests. Party spokesman Panos Panayiotopoulos refrained yesterday from criticizing the unions, saying they are free to act independently. PASOK responded to ND's criticism by reminding people that it inherited the country's fiscal problems from a conservative government. «It is a bit late now for New Democracy to give us economics lessons,» said government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis. Petalotis also dismissed as «not worthy of comment» suggestions by two members of Germany's ruling center-right coalition that Greece sell some islands to pay off its debt. Prime Minister George Papandreou is due in Berlin today for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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