Coalition leaders finalize positions

The leaders of the three parties in the country?s fragile coalition were said on Friday to be finalizing their positions on tough measures that foreign creditors are demanding in exchange for further aid to keep the country solvent even as hardliners within their parties push for rejection of additional austerity.

The leader of Socialist PASOK, George Papandreou, was said to be particularly concerned about the chorus of dissent in his party?s ranks with several MPs stating outright that their vote on new austerity measures was not a given.

According to sources, Papandreou objects to the lowering of the minimum wage, arguing that it will not make a major impact on savings, but is more flexible on the 13th and 14th annual salaries, suggesting that a ceiling could be imposed or one of them abolished.

Antonis Samaras, the leader of conservative New Democracy, which is leading in the polls, reportedly remains less flexible on the issue of wage cuts. But sources told Kathimerini that Samaras and his aides were trying on Friday to find a way of securing a compromise on at least some of the proposed measures. Meanwhile ND hardliners reportedly continued their calls for the conservatives to withdraw from the government and push for elections early next month.

In Parliament on Friday Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos warned that the alternative to the government?s austerity drive was bankruptcy. ?You don?t play with fire when the fate of the country is at stake,? he said. ?Yes, it is terrible to be forced to cut pensions and wages, but what we are trying to avoid is indescribable.? Venizelos was responding to criticism from Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), who described the minister as ?the instigator of tragedy.?