Opposition meets PM’s fire with fire

Ratcheting up political tension further, PASOK leader George Papandreou hit back at the government yesterday, saying he was ready for general elections, if need be, after accusing the Karamanlis administration of denigrating Greece and of being completely inactive with regard to relations between Turkey and Europe. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis attacked the previous socialist government during a speech on Friday for being corrupt and ineffective. Papandreou responded: «New Democracy (ND) has proved that it does not have a compass, nor any goals, nor can it inspire great incisions,» Papandreou said after a meeting with PASOK’s Euro MPs. The socialist leader said his party was heavily involved in securing Turkey’s future in Europe while the government was not active at all on the issue. «On the government’s side, we see absence and apathy. They are observing events like tourists,» said Papandreou. Government Spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos rejected the accusations, saying: «Mr Papandreou has chosen the path of confrontation to get out of his dead end. We won’t follow him down that path.» Papandreou also struck out at the handling of public deficit revisions. «All this doom and gloom logic and accounting has created a very negative image of our country in Europe,» said Papandreou. Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis addressed the World Bank and IMF on Sunday, assuring his audience that Greece would resolve its public deficit problem by controlling public sector pay rises and tightening up state finances. Meanwhile, Papandreou told Saturday’s Ta Nea he was prepared to go to the polls if the political parties could not agree on a candidate to replace President Costis Stephanopoulos next March. An opinion poll published in Sunday’s Eleftheros Typos found that 40.5 percent of people questioned would vote for ND if there were elections tomorrow, while 33 percent chose PASOK. Over 50 percent thought Karamanlis was the most suitable person to govern Greece, compared to 31.1 percent who backed Papandreou.