As Prime Minister George Papandreou prepared yesterday for a trip to the US, having received messages of cautious support from his European Union counterparts in Brussels, the government spokesman indicated that bolstering Greece’s battered image abroad was as important as pushing through difficult economic reforms at home. «Our immediate duty was to save the country [from bankruptcy],» said Giorgos Petalotis. «Now our duty is to reinforce it on an international level,» he said. Striking back at criticism from the main conservative opposition New Democracy over the government’s agreement with its international creditors, which have pledged to lend Greece 110 billion euros, Petalotis stressed that the country’s largest deficit was its «lack of credibility on the international stage.» «We have done everything we can to convince our [EU] partners that this time the statistics we are giving them are a true reflection of reality,» Petalotis said. The government spokesman was speaking just a few hours before Papandreou was to board a plane for the US. The premier is to attend the United Nations’ 65th General Assembly and take part in a debate on the prospects for the Greek economy at the Economic Club of New York, a respected forum for entrepreneurs and economists. During his visit, Papandreou will meet with American and US-based Greek businesspeople to discuss possible cooperation that could help Greece to boost growth and lay the groundwork for its emergence from a deepening recession. Papandreou will also have a series of meetings with diplomats in Washington, Petalotis said, without determining what issues would be on the agenda. Meanwhile Finance Ministry officials continued their talks with members of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Commission – known locally as the troika – regarding Greece’s progress in gathering much-needed revenue, chiefly from tax collection, and curbing public spending. The monitors are due to depart Athens on Tuesday, leaving ministry officials with a report on the country’s progress.