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Briefly

- - Sunday, September 12, 2010

GREECE

Papandreou: No new austerity measures

THESSALONIKI | The Greek government is planning no new austerity measures as part of efforts to pull the country out of debt and might even exit international supervision earlier than expected, the prime minister said Sunday.

George Papandreou said Greece was on track to meet targets for reducing its deficit by nearly 40 percent this year.

"We will not need any new measures," he said during a news conference a day after making his annual speech on the economy on the sidelines of a trade fair in northern Greece.

Mr. Papandreou also reiterated that Athens did not plan to restructure its debt — a move that he said would have been "catastrophic."

In exchange for $140 billion in rescue loans over three years from the International Monetary Fund and some EU countries, Greece has implemented strict fiscal control, seeking to reduce the budget deficit from a stunning 13.6 percent of annual output in 2009 to 8.1 percent this year.

The tough austerity measures, which included salary cuts and tax increases, angered labor unions that have staged six general strikes this year and organized peaceful protests in Thessaloniki on Saturday.

But Mr. Papandreou pledged that successful implementation of his reform program would ease the pain. "The faster we proceed with our reforms, the sooner … we will be able to restore and increase salaries and pensions," he said. "And that is our target."

ITALY

Berlusconi insists he will serve full term

ROME | Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Sunday insisted his government will run its full term to 2013 and easily survive a confidence vote in the last week of September.

"We will go to the polls in three years because we have a majority to govern," Mr. Berlusconi told a meeting of his party's youth movement.

Mr. Berlusconi said he expected "not just a majority, but a great majority" of lawmakers to vote in favor of a five-point program for the rest of the term that he will present to parliament in the last week of September.

The confidence vote will be the major test of whether the government has the majority in parliament after months of political turmoil.

In July, Gianfranco Fini, the lower house speaker and a former ally of Mr. Berlusconi's, ended the prime minister's once-comfortable parliamentary majority by breaking away from his coalition.

But after months of uncertainty and bitter political warfare, Mr. Berlusconi and his camp this week stopped calling for early elections and said the government would find a way to survive until the end of its term.

KOSOVO

French Gendarme injured in clash

MITROVICA | A French Gendarme was shot and wounded early Sunday during clashes between ethnic Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo's ethnically divided city of Mitrovica as European Union police fired tear gas to disperse the violent crowd, an EU official said.

The policeman was shot in the leg and was out of danger, said Karin Limdal, spokeswoman for the 2,000-strong EU police mission. Special police units were called in to support local forces in separating the two sides, which pelted each other with stones at the foot of the bridge that splits the city into two halves, she said. Machine-gun fire and blasts also were reported.

The clashes, sparked after Turkey defeated Serbia in the semifinals of the basketball world championship, highlight the deep ethnic divide that runs between the two ethnic foes over a decade since the end of the Kosovo war in 1999. They come as the two sides brace for EU-facilitated talks that were called upon in a U.N. resolution passed Thursday.

The clashes started when Albanians in the southern part of the ethnically divided city "started celebrating Turkey's victory," police spokesman Besim Hoti told the Associated Press. Three police cars were damaged in the clashes.

Doctors in the Serb-run north said a Serb youth was shot and wounded.

GREECE

Leader concerned by Albanian nationalism

ATHENS | Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou warned on Sunday of rising nationalism in Albania, after the murder of a member of the country's ethnic Greek minority last month.

"The rise of nationalism among extremist groups, which target the Greek minority, is a very serious matter," Mr. Papandreou said during a news conference in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

"Nationalism does not help the Balkans, it always causes big problems," he said.

Albanian authorities have arrested seven people after the Aug. 13 murder of Aristotelis Goumas in the southern town of Himara.

Depending on sources, there are between 40,000 and 100,000 ethnic Greeks living in Albania, who often complain about discrimination and intimidation.

In turn, authorities in Tirana say Albanian emigrants — estimated at more 500,000 — face discrimination in Greece.

From wire dispatches and staff reports