Onus on leaders to seal deal

With the window of opportunity for Greece to secure a deal with its lenders for a new bailout set to slam shut, the three coalition party leaders are due to meet Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on Wednesday to finalize the measures the government will have to adopt to receive further loans.

The talks between Papademos, PASOK’s George Papandreou, New Democracy’s Antonis Samaras and the leader of Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), Giorgos Karatzaferis, had been due to take place on Tuesday night but were put off because the document containing the reforms and austerity measures the three leaders would have to commit to had not been prepared.

The government attempted to reach an agreement with the representatives of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- known as the troika -- on the steps it would take to save 3.3 billion euros. Papademos was locked in talks with troika officials late on Tuesday night.

One of the stumbling blocks that emerged on Tuesday was the troika’s new demands for cuts to basic pensions, which start at 360 euros per month, as well as supplementary ones.

Papandreou held talks with several of PASOK’s cabinet members, including Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Labor Minister Giorgos Koutroumanis. Sources said that Papandreou appeared ready to accept most of the terms of the agreement that he had been informed about at that point.

However, the former prime minister and his aides agreed that the option of further cuts to basic state pensions should be rejected.

There were also lengthy discussions in the New Democracy camp last night. ND had wanted to guarantee that supplementary pensions would not drop below 300 euros per month but now faces the possibility of having to accept cuts in the basic monthly payments that retirees receive. Sources also said that New Democracy supports a 20 percent reduction in the minimum wage but only for new hires.

If the party leaders agree on Wednesday, then the troika officials are likely to hold talks with each of them individually to obtain their explicit commitment to the measures. It was not clear if this would involve written guarantees. The new loan agreement would be submitted to Parliament on Friday and voted on two days later.

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