Papandreou, Simitis break the ice

Those expecting yesterday’s meeting between PASOK leader George Papandreou and his predecessor Costas Simitis to lead to an immediate reconciliation had their hopes dashed although the talks appeared to signal a thawing in relations. The meeting was the first between the two men since last June when Papandreou ousted Simitis from the party after the latter made public a letter in which he criticized the PASOK leader’s policies. Many had expected the talks to lead to Papandreou welcoming Simitis back into the fold and even giving him an official role within the party. However, this failed to materialize and Simitis emerged to tell journalists that he was not rejoining PASOK at this point in time and that he would not be bound by the party’s positions. He said that his priority would be to «help» the party but that he would do this on his own terms. «As is evident from Mr Simitis’s comments, he retains the right to intervene when and how he deems fit,» said PASOK spokesman Giorgos Papaconstantinou. «This is something that we acknowledge.» Despite his restrained response, Simitis found time to take a swipe at the government. «New Democracy is standing helpless even though it is responsible for the causes of the crisis and the particular characteristics it has in Greece,» he said. The 72-year-old Simitis, who served as prime minister from 1996 to 2004 when he stepped down so Papandreou could take over the party’s leadership, created some confusion by suggesting that he would be interested in being nominated for the post of president of the republic. «Everything interests me,» he said in response to journalists’ questions. However, the independent MP later said that he had given a flippant answer. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis reiterated in Parliament that he has no intention of working with the right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS). «We rule out cooperation with anyone from whom we are separated by major ideological and political differences,» he said.

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