NEWS

PASOK contest to start next week?

PASOK stalwart and Deputy Interior Minister Paris Koukoulopoulos suggested Wednesday that the party?s executive bodies should convene next week in an effort to begin proceedings to elect a new leader.

Koukoulopoulos said that ?time has already been lost? and suggested that if former Prime Minister George Papandreou did not initiate the process himself, PASOK?s national council would do so.

Speaking in Parliament during Tuesday?s budget debate, Papandreou did not give a clear indication that he intends to stand down as PASOK leader. However, his aides suggested that he was prepared to quit.

Possible contenders for the party leadership are continuing to hold talks behind the scenes. Education Minister Anna Diamantopoulou, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos and Deputy Defense Minister Yiannis Ragousis, who formed an informal alliance last month, met on Monday to discuss which of them is likely to stand in the contest.

Former government spokesman Ilias Mossialos has close links with the trio of ministers but he told Skai TV Wedneday that he would prefer the current interim administration to remain in power until 2013.

One man certain to disagree with this is Antonis Samaras, whose New Democracy party has been pushing for elections as early as February 19. Samaras was in France yesterday for a meeting of the European People?s Party, to which ND belongs.

In his conference speech, Samaras again stressed the need for measures to be taken to get Greece out of the deep recession it is in. ?We agree totally with the targets [agreed with the troika], with the basic tools and with the time frame but we need to make economic recovery the number one target.?