NEWS

Rifts appear within coalition

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on Thursday emphasized the need for all members of his fractious three-party coalition to fully support the government?s reform efforts even as rifts emerged between several ministers.

Addressing a cabinet meeting, Papademos reportedly stressed that unity was all-important as Greece still needs to secure rescue funding from its international creditors.

His words appeared to fall on deaf ears however. Citizens? Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis took an indirect swipe at Deputy Development Minister Adonis Georgiadis following the latter?s expressed interest in the coast guard, which falls under Papoutsis?s remit.

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou — both regarded as likely challengers for the leadership of socialist PASOK — reportedly made scathing references to the absence from Thursday?s meeting of Foreign Minister Stavros Dimas and Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos.

According to sources, Venizelos and Diamantopoulou suggested that the absence of the other two ministers demonstrated the intention of conservative New Democracy to ensure its cadres do not get their hands dirty ahead of snap polls. ND sources later noted that both ministers had been attending European Union meetings.

Papademos found an unlikely ally in Transport Minister Makis Voridis, a member of right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), who called on Socialist MPs to ?realize that the new government is not a continuation of the PASOK government.?

Papademos has been trying to project the sense of a united front. In a letter sent on Tuesday to creditors, he said his government would stick to the terms of a new EU debt deal for Greece.

But comments by the PM?s outspoken deputy, Theodoros Pangalos, provoked a new rift with ND. Responding to Pangalos?s comments to French media — according to which Greeks who want a return to the drachma are either ?communists, fascists or idiots? — ND?s spokesman Yiannis Michelakis spoke of ?unbelievable vulgar accusations.?

In a related development, Papademos appointed veteran journalist Pantelis Kapsis as government spokesman.