Greek political leaders gather for more talks

President hosts leaders of five main parties in effort to break deadlock between pro- and anti- bailout factions.

    Greece's president has begun another day of talks with leaders of the country's political parties in a final effort to find agreement on forming a government, more than a week after elections gave no party a majority in parliament.

    Five political leaders attended Tuesday's meeting at the presidential palace, with only the communists, who declined to attend, and the far-right Golden Dawn party, who were not invited, absent among parties who gained parliamentary seats in that vote.

    President Karolos Papoulias met with the heads of the conservative New Democracy, socialist PASOK, Syriza and Democratic Left parties on Monday on the ninth day of talks to resolve the deadlock.

    Power-sharing efforts have failed so far after the radical Left coalition, Syriza party insisted that the terms of Greece's bailout agreements be scrapped or rewritten.

    The New Democracy and PASOK favour sticking to the terms of a punishing bailout agreement.

    The president's office released transcripts of an earlier meeting on Sunday, during which Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras said he saw no sign of sufficient common ground with other parties.

    "It would be irresponsible to say one thing before the elections and something else afterward," Tsipras was quoted as saying.

    Papoulias' has until Thursday's opening of parliament to forge a deal, otherwise new elections must be called for next month. The political uncertainty has roiled European markets and left Greece's continued participation in the euro in serious doubt.

    European markets took a break from Greece-related concerns on Tuesday, with shares on the Athens Stock Exchange recovered slightly from days of heavy losses, gaining 0.48 per cent after European Union finance ministers voiced strong support for Greece's continued membership of the eurozone.

    New growth figures released on Tuesday revealed the extent of Greece's ongoing crisis.

    The country's economic output slowed by 6.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2012, compared with the first three months of 2011, according to the Greek Statistical Authority.

    Syriza refusal

    Syriza bloc finished second in May 6 elections with 16.8 per cent, announced late on Sunday has refused to join any coalition government that did not agree to scrap controversial austerity measures mandated by Greece's eurozone partners and international creditors.

    Greece's political landscape has been in disarray for a week since inconclusive elections left parliament divided between supporters and opponents of the 130bn euro ($167bn) EU/IMF bailout, with neither side able to form a government.

    The anti-bailout vote was divided among small parties but has now rallied behind Tsipras, who has emerged as the figurehead for widespread dissatisfaction in Greece with the punishing austerity measures agreed to by the previous PASOK-New Democracy coalition as the price of the bailout.



      Features: Why a repeat election is likely for Greece
      Programmes: Buying time in the eurozone
      Inside Story: Bailing out Greece, again
      Q&A: Eurozone debt crisis
      Map: Eurozone members

    Polls show Syriza would now place first if the vote was repeated, a prize that comes with a bonus of 50 extra seats in the 300-seat parliament, effectively ending the 40-year dominance of Greek politics by the two main parties.

    Tsipras says he wants to keep Greece in the euro but the bailout agreement must be torn up.

    European leaders say that would require them to cut off funding, allow Greece to go bankrupt and eject it from the European single currency.

    Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has led the charge to set austerity measures in Greece to keep it from defaulting.

    “I think it would be best for Greece to stay in the eurozone. This means that we have to show a way to get Greece back on track step by step," she said.

    After meeting with Papoulias and the conservative and socialist leaders, Tsipras said of their coalition offer: "They are not asking for agreement, they are asking us to be their partners in crime and we will not be their accomplices."

    PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos said he was nonetheless holding on to hopes that a deal could still be salvaged, but warned time was running out.

    "Despite the impasse at the meeting we had with the president, I hold on to some limited optimism that a government can be formed," said Venizelos.

    "The moment of truth has come. We either form a government or we go to elections."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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