NEWS

PM speaks to party leaders, heads for eurozone talks

Following brief and inconclusive telephone conversations with opposition leaders on Tuesday, Prime Minister George Papandreou is setting off for Brussels on Wednesday, a day ahead of a eurozone leaders? summit that could decide the fate of the Greek economy.

Papandreou will be accompanied by Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos. It is a sign of the Greek government?s desire for eurozone leaders to agree on a comprehensive solution for Athens?s debt problem that the two men will be arriving in the Belgian capital 20 hours ahead of the meeting.

Papandreou and Venizelos have refrained from stating publicly what they would consider to be a successful outcome from the talks but government sources suggested to Kathimerini yesterday that packages which include the issuing of Eurobonds or the introduction of a levy on banks that would raise money for Greece, both of which have been discussed, are viewed particularly favorably in Athens.

Publicly, the government says that it has three ?red lines? for the negotiations. It wants an extension to the maturity of Greek debt, which stands at about 350 billion euros, a reduction of the interest rate that Greece is paying for its borrowing and a guarantee of liquidity for the country?s banks.

Papandreou informed the other party leaders of the government?s position but remained vague on the details of any possible outcome from the eurozone meeting as European officials continued to debate the various permutations yesterday. The prime minister?s conversation with New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras was particularly brief. Sources said that it lasted three minutes, an indication of how far apart the two parties are in terms of agreeing on a common economic strategy.

Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader Giorgos Karatzaferis is said to have advised Papandreou to walk out of the talks if they appear to be taking a turn for the worse. Samaras and Karatzaferis oppose any solution that will involve private sector participation and warned Papandreou not to accept a deal that would lead to the credit rating agencies deeming Greece to be in ?selective default.?

Venizelos said that the worst outcome for Greece would be for eurozone leaders not to reach an agreement. ?The worst scenario is for there to be no solution at all,? he said. ?Even the worst solution will be a solution.?