NEWS

Papandreou hits trail

Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who is set to succeed Prime Minister Costas Simitis as leader of the PASOK party after a vote on February 8, begins his cross-country tour to bring his message to citizens with a visit to his family’s ancestral village today. Papandreou, who met with Simitis yesterday, also made clear that he and the prime minister would follow different roads in the runup to the March 7 elections. «I am going on a pilgrimage to Kalentzi, the village of my father and grandfather,» Papandreou told state radio ERA yesterday. The village is near Patras in the province of Achaia in the western Peloponnese. «It is a pilgrimage to Achaia, where I began my political career officially. I want to say thank you to those people who showed trust in me and worked with me in my first steps and I want them and many others at my side now for this new beginning,» Papandreou said. He was first elected to Parliament in Achaia in 1981, when PASOK, founded by his father, Andreas, swept to power in a landslide. George Papandreou is set to become the party’s third leader. Both his father and grandfather were elected prime minister. Papandreou, in a meeting with Simitis, said he would not accompany the prime minister on a visit to Crete, despite initial reports that he would do so. He will campaign across the country over the next month. «It is my intention to hold an open dialogue with society at least until PASOK’s extraordinary congress,» he said after the meeting with Simitis, their top advisers and PASOK General Secretary Michalis Chrysochoidis. «I will tour all of Greece, at least as much as I can, to discuss the new program for the next four years, because I have an unshaken belief in the citizens’ participation,» Papandreou said. Meanwhile, Papandreou’s invitation to people from outside PASOK to join in the party’s «renewal» met with its first response yesterday. Maria Damanaki, a former leader of the Synaspismos Left Coalition, said she would seek a meeting with Papandreou and was ready to discuss a wide range of issues, including the possibility of running for Parliament with PASOK. «New roads are opening for the renewal and revival of the political climate and political life,» she said. Papandreou, in his ERA interview, accepted New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis’s challenge to debate campaign issues. Papandreou said he was in favor of a substantive dialogue.