NEWS

PM says he will go on without consensus

Prime Minister George Papandreou indicated on Friday evening that there was scope for consensus on a new raft of austerity measures following a long meeting with his political rivals, most of whom appeared to suggest that little common ground had been found.

?There are many points on which we can agree. But there is a need for political will from all sides,? Papandreou said. ?Over the next few days we will continue efforts to reach a consensus,? he added, noting however that his administration had ?assumed the responsibility to extract the country from the crisis and will do this with or without consensus.?

Dousing speculation about early elections, Papandreou indicated that certain changes could be made to proposals for more tax increases – a touchy subject with opposition leaders.

Earlier in the day, opposition leaders leaving the official residence of President Karolos Papoulias, who chaired the meeting, gave little indication that they had seen eye-to-eye. The leader of the main conservative opposition New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, called for a renegotiation of the terms of the memorandum – the name given to the agreement between Greece and the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, which last May pledged the country 110 billion euros in loans. Samaras reiterated his calls for an alternative program that would reduce taxes rather than raise them. ?We will not be blackmailed,? he said.

The leader of the far-right Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) Giorgos Karatzaferis, indicated that certain political leaders were not focusing on the common good. ?Some clearly rank their position over the good of the country,? he said.

The leader of the Communist Party (KKE), Aleka Papariga, claimed that Greeks were being subjected to ?ideological terrorism? and should not give in to ?coercive dilemmas.?

The head of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), Alexis Tsipras, struck a similar tone, saying that ?consensus cannot be secured through blackmail? and describing the government?s proposed reforms as ?unfair and disastrous.?

Thousands of people protesting the government?s ongoing austerity drive filled squares in Athens and other cities on Friday in the third day of demonstrations modeled on a Spanish campaign organized via social networking websites.