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Greek PM says coalition needed to save country

Greek PM George Papandreou (L) meets with President Karolos Papoulias in Athens on Nov. 5, 2011. AFP/GETTY IMAGES/Louisa Gouliamaki

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou ended his meeting with the country’s president on Saturday after one hour of talks, during which he said the nation had to forge a political consensus to prove it wanted to keep the euro.

Papandreou’s meeting with President Karolos Papoulias marks the launch of the former’s push for a new coalition government to save the nation from bankruptcy.

It came hours after the prime minister survived a parliamentary confidence vote late on Friday night into Saturday morning.

Papandreou told Papoulias that Greece had to avoid early elections and that he wanted to set up a broad-based government to secure the debt bailout — the main weapon in the euro zone’s battle against its spreading economic crisis.

When he emerged from the meeting at the president’s office in Athens, Papandreou told a scrum of waiting journalists that a lack of consensus would worry European partners over the country’s willingness to stay within the euro zone.

“Yesterday, the government received a vote of confidence. Today, I came to the president of the republic to discuss and inform him of my intent to contribute significantly to a government of wider cooperation whose main goal will be to vote for the bill and the implementation of any steps necessary for the historical
decisions of October 26.

This agreement of October 26, and the implementation of steps stemming from this decision, is a precondition for staying in the euro. These are very significant moments. In order to create this wider cooperation, the necessary contacts and procedures will take place soon,” Papandreou said.

In a late night speech to parliament, Papandreou said the new coalition should be formed to ram the 130-billion-euro bailout deal through the assembly.

The deal is seen as the last financial lifeline for a nation that is due to run out of money in December.
Without saying when he might quit, Papandreou, who has led Greece through two years of political, economic and social turmoil, said he was ready to discuss who should lead the new government which would rule until elections probably early next year.
Analysts said Papandreou’s victory had been Pyrrhic, and many ordinary Greeks said they were disenchanted with Byzantine political wrangling that was not addressing their basic need for jobs and cash.
Sources said Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos has won the backing of leaders of some smaller parties, to support a new coalition that he might head.
The new government would call early elections in a few months after the bailout was secured, sources close to the deal told Reuters.
The leaders of the far-right LAOS party and another centre-right party indicated after Papandreou’s speech that they would cooperate in a new coalition.
In parliament, Venizelos said a new government should rule until next February and then call elections.
Opposition leader Antonis Samaras counted his New Democracy party out of the coalition, saying Papandreou had spurned his call for a national unity government and adding that elections were the only way forward.