Leaders set for final talks

With negotiations between government officials and representatives of the country?s international creditors on a tough new austerity package inching forward, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his coalition partners are expected to meet tomorrow to seek a common line on the measures ahead of a final deal which authorities hope to clinch by Sunday.

According to sources, the meeting was called for tomorrow after socialist PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos expressed frustration at not being informed in detail by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras about what the measures that have not been agreed with foreign creditors will comprise.

The talks are expected to be tough as deeper cuts to pensions, salaries and social benefits are said to be on the table, as is the scrapping of the tax-free threshold for the self-employed and the raising of the retirement age to 67 from 65.

Both Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis of Democratic Left, the third party in the coalition, have expressed objections to some of the harsher measures proposed by creditors although they have said they will not provoke a crisis in the shaky coalition.

Venizelos on Tuesday told his MPs that the final package would be ?the inevitable outcome of a dual compromise,? referring to the government?s concessions to its creditors and the junior coalition partners? concessions to dominant New Democracy.

In Kouvelis?s ranks, certain MPs have suggested they will vote down the measures but any defections are not expected to pose a threat to the approval of the bill next week.

Sources told Kathimerini that a vote would be held on the bill in its entirety, not article-by-article, to avert protest votes by MPs.

Meanwhile Samaras and his advisers are reportedly discussing how to impose the new measures with the minimum political and social fallout.

According to sources, Samaras is expected to deliver a televised address to the nation at some point next week — ahead of a parliamentary vote — in which he is likely to stress that the new measures will be the last and to underline the importance of Greece securing its position in the eurozone.

Samaras is to travel to Rome on Thursday for meetings with his Italian counterpart Mario Monti on Friday and with Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday.

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