Greek parties delay bailout talks despite EU threats

Tue Feb 7, 2012 4:25pm EST
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By Lefteris Papadimas and Renee Maltezou

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek political parties delayed yet again on Tuesday making the tough choice of accepting painful reforms in return for a new international bailout to avoid a chaotic default, seemingly deaf to EU warnings that the euro zone can live without Athens.

With a series of deadlines come and gone, leaders of the three parties in the coalition of Prime Minister Lucas Papademos postponed what was supposed to be a crunch meeting until Wednesday.

On a day when protesters burned a German flag in Athens, Chancellor Angela Merkel tried to ease growing tension by promising she would not try to force Greece out of the euro. But the Dutch prime minister said the currency bloc could take a Greek exit in its stride.

One party official blamed Tuesday's delay, which is likely to enrage euro zone leaders desperate to tie up the 130 billion euro rescue after months of argument, on missing paperwork - the same reason given when the meeting was postponed from Monday to Tuesday.

"The reason is that the political leaders will not have the time to assess the measures in the bailout," said the party official, who declined to be named.

The heads of the conservative, socialist and far-right parties had yet to receive the draft agreement with the European Union and IMF only half an hour before the 1900 GMT scheduled start of the meeting on Tuesday.

"We can't say a plain yes or no unless we have assurances from the relevant authorities of the state that these actions are constitutional and will lead the country out of the crisis," far-right LAOS leader George Karatzaferis said. "There is time. When it comes to future of the country, we will find the time."

Party leaders have hesitated to accept the tough terms of the deal, which are certain to mean a big drop in living standards for many Greeks.   Continued...

<p>Demonstrators from the communist-affiliated trade union PAME march by the parliament in protest against the new austerity measures in Athens February 7, 2012. REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis</p>