Greek PM calls for national unity

Papandreou calls on opposition to "stop fighting in these critical times".

    The Greek prime minister has urged his people to support deeply unpopular austerity reforms in order to avoid a catastrophic bankruptcy.

    George Papandreou was addressing parliament on Sunday at the begining of three days of debate leading up to a crucial confidence vote in the government when he said the country's problems would not be solved by asking the International Monetary Fund to leave.

    The prime minister also said that the country needed to be united on this issue, and called on the opposition to "stop fighting in these critical times, stop sending the image that the country is being torn apart".

    "Showing that we are split is not helping us at all," he said.

    Antonis Samaras, the main opposition leader, has called on Papandreou to step down to pave the way for elections and renegotiation of the bailout.

    "Why is the government insisting on us supporting the mistake? It does not want consensus but complicity," said Samaras.

    The cabinet hopes to push the reforms through by end-June, but weeks of anti-austerity rallies on the steps of parliament have created political uncertainty and spooked investors who fear public rage may weaken the government's resolve.

    'Correct injustices'

    Papandreou said that the new Greek government would "correct injustices" that he said emerged with the implementation of the bailout deal, and that he was ready to talk to the opposition regarding the issue of taxes.

    He confirmed that the country was in talks for a new bailout package that would be "roughly equal" to the first package of $155 bn, which was agreed to in May.

    He also called for a referendum to be held in the autumn on constitutional changes.

    The economic situation in Greece continues to look grim as the government gets set to usher in controversial austerity measures.

    "It's now looking increasingly possible at least that the prime minister will win a confidence vote in parliament early next week," Al Jazeera’s Tim Friend reported from Athens.

    "That would mean that he would stand at least a good chance at pushing through those austerity measures."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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