PASOK cries foul over US consulate

Greece’s Socialist opposition yesterday accused the conservative government of rushing through a decision to open a new consulate in the swing state of Florida to help US President George W. Bush win re-election. An estimated 120,000 Greek Americans live in the southern state, where opinion polls show Bush and Democratic challenger Senator John Kerry running neck-and-neck. It is one of a handful of states that could determine who wins the November 2 election. «We are not saying it will decide the presidential vote, but it is a message to the Greeks living there that the conservatives in Greece and the Republicans in the United States can work well together,» PASOK Deputy Dimitris Reppas told Reuters. «We don’t understand the urgency of this legislation. It could have passed in a month or in two months,» Reppas said. Several other Socialist MPs also raised the issue in Parliament. Legislation to open the consulate in Tampa, Florida, and shut one in New Orleans, Louisiana, was adopted in Parliament this week. The government said the decision had been influenced only by the need to serve Greek Americans in Florida, who have been pressing for a consulate to facilitate the issuance of travel papers and other documents. «This is a rational decision to serve the Greek Americans,» government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said. «This a deliberate distortion of reality» by the Socialists, he added. Bill Kiritsis, head of Democrats in Greece, said Greek Americans were overwhelmingly Democrats anyway so the consulate move would not affect the election outcome in Florida. «Maybe 10 percent of Greek Americans could be affected by this decision but I don’t think the Greek government is doing it to support Bush,» Kiritsis told Reuters.