The government is considering financial services group JP Morgan’s offer to buy back a controversial state bond, senior ministers said over the weekend, as Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis sought to shift the spotlight from the issue yesterday by unveiling new plans for the way Greece will use European Union funds. Labor Minister Savvas Tsitouridis has been the focus of criticism for the sale of the allegedly overpriced bond to a civil servants’ pensions fund. On Saturday he described JP Morgan’s offer to buy back the 280-million-euro bond as «welcome and beneficial.» Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis confirmed that the ruling conservatives were considering the offer. «We must be very careful,» he said. «We are studying this proposal very seriously, on the basis that any losses incurred by the pension funds which bought these bonds will be made good by the firms that participated in the secondary trading.» Alogoskoufis denied that the offer was made at the behest of the Greek government. The minister said everyone would have to wait for the findings of an ongoing investigation before it could be said with certainty that the bond was sold to the pension fund at an inflated price so that several financiers could earn a hefty commission on the sale. JP Morgan proposed buying back the structured bond it underwrote after persistent allegations that the transactions were overpriced. The affair has put considerable pressure on Karamanlis. Several ministers have asked him to sack Tsitouridis in order to defuse the tension that has built up in recent weeks. Sources said Karamanlis spent much of the weekend conferring with his closest aides before arriving at a decision which will ensure that the popularity of the ruling party does not suffer further as it moves into its last 10 months in power. In an effort to divert attention from the bonds issue and show the government in a more positive light, Karamanlis yesterday announced that he planned to ensure that Greece absorbs at least 80 percent of the 24.4 billion euros that Athens has secured from the EU’s Fourth Community Support Framework, which runs until 2013. Karamanlis pledged that the bulk of the money would be spent on the regions to develop the economy and make it more competitive. Greece has drawn up a plan, approved by the EU last month, setting out how it will invest the money. Karamanlis said the government expenditure that will be added to the EU funds will take the total amount of money to be invested to 36.5 million euros.