athens launches debt talks as mps confirm government
Last Updated : GMT 16:22:18
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Athens launches debt talks as MPs confirm government

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Arab Today, arab today Athens launches debt talks as MPs confirm government

Athens - AFP

The new Greek government was set to launch talks with the banks Wednesday on reducing the country\'s huge debt, after securing overwhelming support from parliament in a symbolic vote of confidence. Charles Dallara, the managing director of the Institute of International Finance who is leading negotiations on a major Greek debt rollover, was due to meet Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and the finance minister in Athens. The talks follow a confidence vote on the new unity government of socialists, conservatives and far-right nationalists, which was supported by 255 lawmakers on Wednesday night. There are 300 MPs, but only 293 voted. Dallara was due to meet Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos before holding talks with Papademos, officials said. They were to begin negotiating details of a 50 percent writedown on Greek debt agreed with the banks last month, as part of a second EU bailout deal which also gives Athens 100 billion euros in loans and 30 billion to recapitalise its banks. The talks will then likely move to Frankfurt, where the IIF has said Dallara will travel this week to meet leaders of financial institutions that hold Greek debt. Papademos, a former deputy of the European Central Bank, was sworn in on Friday after days of political and market turmoil as Greece\'s crippling debts sparked fears it may be forced to leave the eurozone.  Brussels increased the pressure on Athens on Wednesday to commit itself in writing to deeply unpopular austerity measures and structural reforms demanded by its European Union and International Monetary Fund creditors. Jean-Claude Juncker, who heads the group of eurozone finance ministers, said they would discuss before the end of November whether to release eight billion euros in frozen funds from a first rescue deal agreed in May 2010. Greece needs the money before state coffers run dry on December 15. Papademos must then force through reforms required in return for the second bailout deal agreed at an all-night eurozone summit last month. \"We are waiting for a letter from the Greek prime minister on the precise intentions of authorities regarding the recommendations made\" last month, Juncker told the European parliament in Strasbourg, France. Earlier calls for all coalition parties to formally sign up to the reforms have been strongly opposed by the conservative New Democracy party, the second largest of the three parties that make up the government. New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras renewed his opposition on Wednesday and the leader of the smaller far-right nationalist LAOS party, George Karatzaferis, also came out against any written pledge.  \"What additional confirmation could be needed, beyond the fact that we are voting for your administration?\" Samaras told the prime minister during a parliamentary debate ahead of the vote of confidence. But in a speech closing the debate, Papademos urged them to support a written commitment to reform. \"For the European people and the international organisations to keep financing the country it is not enough to have a commitment from the government, but all the participants in the government must commit,\" he said. Despite the symbolic show of support, the coalition parties are all angling for early elections within a few months, while unions and left-wing parties are mobilising against the proposed cuts. The first major challenge for Papademos comes on Thursday, at a demonstration for the annual commemoration of a 1973 student uprising that helped bring down the army dictatorship which ran Greece until 1974. Last year, the march morphed into a protest by thousands against government austerity measures and the police are braced for trouble.

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