Domestic agenda dogs premier

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said yesterday that Greece is ready to sign a deal to import natural gas from Azerbaijan after meeting with the country’s president, Ilham Aliyev, but this was eclipsed by developments on the domestic scene, including a new demand for elections by PASOK. Karamanlis confirmed interest that had been expressed a day earlier by government officials in receiving a supply of 1 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year from Azerbaijan as well as signing an agreement to build a pipeline that would also pass through Turkey and Italy. However, the prime minister soon had to focus on domestic matters, as he was questioned about his government’s plan, or lack thereof, for handling the economic crisis. «Nobody can safely predict the length of the economic crisis,» he told reporters. «Our Stability and Growth Program is clear, specific and adequate to meet the needs and demands of the times.» Karamanlis again called for understanding and consensus from all of Greece’s political parties but this seemed unlikely as PASOK leader George Papandreou held talks with President Karolos Papoulias to explain why the Socialists are pressuring New Democracy to call elections. «Our country is going through a deep crisis, which will only get worse with time,» said Papandreou. «That’s why we need a change of direction.» Sources said that if the government does not go to the polls soon, PASOK would force elections next March when the government has to nominate its candidate for president. The Socialists intend to take advantage of the Constitution and oppose any choice in order to make general elections mandatory. If PASOK wins, it plans to nominate Papoulias for a second term. Meanwhile, PASOK was mourning the loss of one of its MPs yesterday. Giorgos Papadimitriou, a professor in constitutional law, died at the age of 65 after a brief battle against cancer. Papadimitriou was on PASOK’s state list of deputies and will be replaced by architect and civil engineer Ilias Beriatos.

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