Greece fails to reach breakthrough in unity government
Greece failed Wednesday to reach a breakthrough on an interim government after three days of intense talks, despite growing international pressure and threats of imminent bankruptcy, dpa reported.
The country's outgoing Prime Minister George Papandreou said earlier that the two main parties had agreed to form an interim coalition government to secure a new 130-billion-euro debt deal.
"Today, despite our political and social differences, we are putting aside our conflicts," Prime Minister George Papandreou said in a televised address.
"We will take the necessary steps together ... to secure the implementation of the European debt deal, decisions which offer our country security," he continued.
But less than an hour later, the power-sharing talks appeared to have broken down between Papandreou's Socialists and the opposition conservatives led by Antonis Samaras, without naming a new prime minister to take over.
The president's office said the meeting would reconvene on Thursday morning. No reasons were given for the delay.
Former European Central Bank vice president Lucas Papademos had previously emerged as a leading candidate to head the new national unity government, which is to have a caretaker role until elections on February 19, 2012.
But his candidacy appeared to have lost ground and the names of Socialist PASOK party veteran Apostolos Kaklamanis and parliament speaker Filipos Petsalnikos came forth in widespread media speculation.
Papandreou and Samaras agreed at the weekend to form a 15-week interim government. Along with implementing Greece's bailout package, the interim government's task will be to steer the country towards fresh elections.
On Tuesday, Socialist cabinet ministers handed their resignations to Papandreou.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke by telephone with Papandreou early Wednesday, the Elysee reported, adding that Papandreou had informed the French president of the imminent formation of a new Greek government.
Sarkozy "saluted" Papandreou's action, welcoming the prospect of a unity government which would allow the implementation of the eurozone deal.
Athens could be forced into bankruptcy before the end of the year without the approval of the deal and the associated release of an 8-billion-euro loan installment.
According to daily Kathimerini, Samaras has balked at eurozone demands for a written commitment to the fiscal targets and measures demanded by the country's international lenders.
Samaras is insisting that a verbal commitment should be enough to reassure Greece's lenders.
"There is such a thing as national dignity," he said. "I have repeatedly explained that, in order to protect the Greek economy and the euro, the implementation of the October 26 agreement is inevitable."
He was referring to an EU agreement regulating losses for Greek creditors.
On Monday, eurozone finance ministers said the heads of the two main parties had to commit in writing to the terms of the country's bailouts before Athens can receive the next loan installment.
The crisis turned political last week after Papandreou said he would put the new European rescue package to a referendum, causing markets to tumble around the world and angering European leaders. He later reneged on the referendum.