NEWS

PM appears to clinch leaders’ support

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos held meetings on Friday evening with the leaders of the two smallest parties in his tripartite coalition and appeared to secure their support for the continuation of his administration?s difficult task of pushing through tough reforms though no specific date was set for early elections despite mounting pressure from some for snap polls.

The leader of New Democracy, Antonis Samaras, made no comments after his talks with Papademos but sources said that the meeting took place in a ?positive atmosphere.?

Shortly afterward ND spokesman Yiannis Michelakis issued a written statement indicating that the government would stay in place until it had completed its chief tasks, of implementing reforms agreed with Greece?s foreign creditors at a European Union summit on October 26, and concluding negotiations on a private sector plan ? dubbed as PSI+ — for a haircut on Greek bonds. His statement appeared to indicate that ND had eased off the pressure for elections by February 19, a provisional date proposed when the new coalition was formed in November.

Sources said, however, that Samaras had indicated in his talks with Papademos that the election date should not be delayed by more than two or three weeks after this provisional date.

There was no indication about whether the conservatives had backed down on their resistance to the merging of auxiliary pension funds ? one of a series of reforms demanded by foreign creditors.

Papademos also met with the leader of the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), Giorgos Karatzaferis, who appeared to throw his full support behind the coalition. In a brief statement to reporters after the talks, Karatzaferis indirectly criticized those who have pushed for early elections, emphasizing that the premier ?should be left alone to govern.?

Karatzaferis added that there ?was room for flexibility? as regards the date of elections but no such flexibility for reforms.

It remained unclear when Papademos would meet with his predecessor PASOK leader George Papandreou — who has been unconditionally supportive of the reforms as they are a continuation of his own term ? but the two men are expected to have talks on the Tuesday after Christmas.