ND leader says there is no consensus [update]

As Greece braced itself for a massive, nationwide strike that is expected to bring key sectors of the state and the economy to a grinding halt on Wednesday and Thursday, Prime Minister George Papandreou failed twice to secure the support of the main opposition party ahead of a vote in Parliament on Thursday on a package of crucial reforms on which the country?s sixth tranche of a bailout loan depends and a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels on Sunday.

Thwarting any possibility of consensus over the slew of new austerity measures that are expected to pass through Parliament on ruling PASOK?s slim four-seat majority, opposition New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said on Tuesday following a brief meeting with the premier, ?I would have a lot to say with someone who is sincerely interested in the unity of the Greek people in the face of the crisis. I have nothing to say with someone who is in a state of panic and who reviles everyone.?

Samaras told the press in a statement that was taped because of the media strike on Tuesday, ?I went and heard Papandreou?s briefing because the situation is truly critical. Otherwise, I would never have gone at all,? he said.

Greece?s creditors in the European Union and the International Monetary Fund have stressed the need for political consensus over key structural reforms to the public sector that include across-the-board wage cuts, the sale of state assets and several thousand public sector workers being put on labor reserve, or on significantly reduced pay.

Samaras also nixed a second overture by the premier on Wednesday, made over the telephone, in which he suggested that the two party leaders attend Sunday’s EU summit together.

“When two politicians travel together to Brussels, it means that they are representing a united policy line,» Samaras told Papandreou. «What is your policy line? Have the two of us ever agreed on this? You can’t even agree with your own ministers,» the opposition leader told the prime minister.

“I will go to Brussels as I do every time in order to perform my national duty, but not with you,» added Samaras.

Speaking to the press after the tense telephone conversation on Wednesday, government spokesman Ilias Mosialos accused Samaras of shirking his duties.

“He is looking for an alibi to once more avoid contributing in any way to the national effort being made with the sacrifices of the Greek people,» Mosialos said, adding «New Democracy is the only opposition party in Europe that refuses to assume even its most rudimentary responsibility to help its country.”

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