NEWS

PM urges Cabinet, country forward after loan deal

Prime Minister George Papandreou called an emergency Cabinet meeting on Sunday to urge more unity and focus within the government after obtaining initial approval from eurozone leaders in Brussels on Saturday for the improvement of the terms attached to Greece?s 110-billion-euro loan package.

Papandreou?s message was that the agreement was an important achievement but that there was still a lot of work to do. He also made a point of praising the Greek people for the sacrifices that they have made.

?From now on, it is up to us if the country is going to be saved and if we are going to move forward,? he said. ?We are in the middle of the storm and we have to stick to our course.?

He urged opposition parties to play a constructive role in helping Greece achieve its economic targets. ?It is not acceptable for the government and citizens to be struggling and for some people to tell these citizens that they are fools and they should stop making the effort,? said the prime minister.

In a message that was also aimed at his government, Papandreou said: ?We need unity to be able to reach our targets.?

The premier rejected any thoughts of early elections or a Cabinet reshuffle. ?These scenarios have to stop,? he said.

Papandreou called the Cabinet meeting after returning from Brussels with much of what he had sought from the eurozone leaders? meeting. It was announced early on Saturday that Greece would have 7.5 rather than 3 years to repay the 110 billion euros, and that the interest rate would be an average of 4.2 percent rather than 5.2.

Papandreou said these adjustments would lighten Greece?s debt load by 6 billion euros. ?We fought, we struggled and we made it,? said the prime minister after the long meeting. ?Today?s decisions are a clear indication of the appreciation for the effort being made by the Greek people.?

Papandreou said that Greece would not have to rewrite its constitution to include a ?debt brake,? nor was he forced to commit to privatize 50 billion euros worth of state assets by 2015. He insisted that the privatization program would take place but in a manner to be decided by his government and nobody else.

However, the details of the loan agreement as well as the permanent support mechanism for eurozone countries will be rubber-stamped at an EU leaders? summit on March 24-25.