NEWS

PM?s talks with leaders spill over deadline

After a five-hour meeting with the leaders of the three parties in his fragile coalition government, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos announced on Sunday night that agreement had been reached on certain ?basic issues? — though the heads of the two smaller parties indicated that they remained opposed to excessive austerity — and that fresh talks would be held Monday to finalize the details of a second bailout package for Greece.

A written statement issued after the meeting by the premier?s office said that Papademos and the party leaders had agreed to implement measures within 2012 to curb public spending by 1.5 percent of gross domestic product, to secure the viability of auxiliary pensions, to tackle a competitiveness deficit by taking measures which include the reduction of ?wage costs and non-wage costs,? and to recapitalize banks ?using a combination of methods that secure the promotion of public interest with the banks? corporate independence.? The statement, which omitted key details about controversial issues such as proposed cuts to wages in the private sector, concluded that the premier and party leaders would meet again Monday ?to finish discussions on the content of the program.?

Earlier, comments by conservative New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras suggested that major sticking points remained. ?They are asking for more recession than the country can take,?? he said, referring to the country?s foreign creditors. ?I am fighting against this.??

The leader of the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), Giorgos Karatzaferis, also struck an indignant tone, telling reporters that he ?will not contribute to the explosion of a revolution due to a wretchedness that will then spread across Europe.??

In a letter to Papademos, Socialist PASOK party leader and former Premier George Papandreou reiterated his position on the recapitalization of Greek banks, insisting that the new state shares should include voting rights. He also called for the extension of Papademos?s mandate through October 2013 to allow for the implementation of all decisions.

Meanwhile, in central Athens, a few hundred self-styled anarchists and members of left-wing organizations who had gathered in central Syntagma Square Sunday evening for an anti-austerity protest were involved in minor scuffles with police who tried to disperse them. There were no reports of injuries however.

In comments made late on Saturday after talks with foreign envoys, who also met with Papademos earlier Sunday, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos gave an indication of just how tough the negotiations had been. ?The gap between the successful completion of procedures and a deadlock, which could be accidental or due to a misunderstanding, is very small. We are on the razor?s edge,? he said.

Speaking after a teleconference call with his eurozone peers, Venizelos said the conversation had been ?difficult? and that there had been ?great concern and great pressure? from creditor states.