Party leaders turn fire on each other

The gloves came off yesterday for the final week of campaigning before European parliamentary elections, as Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis accused PASOK of being the only party that had accepted bribes from Siemens after the Socialists’ leader George Papandreou accused the government of being «blackmailed» by the suspects in the case. Speaking on Alter TV last night, Karamanlis highlighted the fact that the only official to have so far admitted to accepting money from the electronics firm was a PASOK cadre. Last June, Theodoros Tsoukatos, a close aide of former Prime Minister Costas Simitis, said that he met with the former CEO of Siemens Hellas, Michalis Christoforakos, in 1999 and accepted a payment of 1 million German marks, or the equivalent of 420,000 euros, on behalf of PASOK. Tsoukatos said that the money was eventually transferred into the party’s coffers. Karamanlis also drew attention to the role of PASOK spokesman Giorgos Papaconstantinou, who was on the board of OTE telecom during the period when it is alleged the company entered into suspect contracts with Siemens. «I am not accusing him, it is a fact,» said Karamanlis. «When everybody is looking at us with regard to what was then going on between Siemens and OTE, should not those that were on the OTE board at least explain the political connection?» Karamanlis denied that New Democracy had anything to do with Siemens and said it was «laughable» that critics have accused him or his ministers of allowing suspects in the scandal to escape justice. Earlier, Papandreou said that the situation with the Siemens probe was «tragic» and that Karamanlis had to take personal responsibility. «The government is being blackmailed by the guilty parties,» he said.