PM’s dinner aims to end PASOK feuds

In an effort to bring his fractious party into line, Prime Minister Costas Simitis has invited senior PASOK officials to dinner on Monday. This will be just three days before the party’s organizational conference, which is intended to chart its course before October’s local and regional elections. Simitis, the newspapers Ta Nea and To Vima revealed yesterday, has invited his Inner Cabinet’s members and PASOK General Secretary Costas Laliotis to his office at the Maximos Mansion on Monday night. But it is no secret in PASOK that most of the 11 senior officials who will attend the dinner believe that the party will do badly in the coming elections, and some are talking about the possibility of Simitis withdrawing from PASOK’s leadership after the Greek presidency of the EU ends in June 2003. Another problem is that relations between many leading PASOK members are in a bad state. Senior officials say that it is difficult to imagine the possibility of these differences being solved at a dinner. Among them is that between Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou and Foreign Minister George Papandreou over the EU’s defense force and the course of Greek-Turkish relations. Also, Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis and National Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis are at odds over civil servants’ salaries. Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou and Transport Minister Christos Verelis have quarreled over written comments by Verelis critical of Papandreou, who decried what she called «backstabbing.» Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis was recently criticized by Laliotis for calling for radical change in PASOK. Furthermore, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos is said to be angered by Simitis’s reported refusal to brief him on issues and to hold a «political» discussion with him. Education Minister Petros Efthymiou is said to differ with the national economy minister, whom he blames for certain actions that, he says, worsened the government’s relations with the university community. FM Papandreou will meet with Laliotis on Monday and Tsochadzopoulos on Thursday.

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