PASOK in turmoil over Laliotis

A day after heralding an early July Cabinet reshuffle in the wake of two embarrassing resignations by close prime ministerial aides, the ruling Socialists appeared deeply divided yesterday with the party’s general secretary angrily rejecting as «wishful thinking» speculation that he might lose his position. Costas Laliotis’s heated outburst, which appeared to target government spokesman Christos Protopappas, came after Protopappas, on Thursday, was asked whether there was any question of Laliotis being replaced. «I don’t know,» Protopappas said. Laliotis took offense, regarding this response as lacking in assertiveness. «[Protopappas’s] remarks may be due to ignorance, confusion or a momentary urge to meddle,» the former public works minister told SKAI radio. «But there is no issue… My political and personal relations with [PM Costas] Simitis are excellent. Therefore, any rumors or scenarios maintaining the opposite have ulterior motives.» Top government and PASOK sources said Laliotis seemed to be targeting party officials close to the PM who for weeks have been speculating that Simitis was planning a confrontation with veteran PASOK politicians, starting with Laliotis. Yesterday, Telemachos Hytiris, Protopappas’s deputy, issued a statement saying that «there is no issue regarding PASOK’s general secretary.» But sources close to Simitis quoted the PM as saying, «And nobody knows what my intentions are.» On Wednesday, State Minister Stefanos Manikas and PASOK Executive Bureau member Michalis Neonakis resigned after Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis revealed the extent of their bourse transactions between 1998-2000.

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