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Greek coalition talks to continue Tuesday

- Associated Press - Monday, May 14, 2012

ATHENS (AP) — Greece's president will convene a broader meeting with the heads of several political parties Tuesday in a final push to find agreement on forming a government, more than a week after elections gave no party a majority in parliament.

President Karolos Papoulias met with the heads of the conservative New Democracy, socialist PASOK and Democratic Left parties Monday evening in the eighth day of talks to resolve the deadlock. 

The party leaders said that the president had suggested creating a government of technocrats or "personalities" and that he will convene another meeting with the heads of more parties Tuesday to seek support.

The New Democracy party won the general elections on May 6, but the poll failed to produce an outright winner. The second-placed left-wing party, Syriza, has refused to join a coalition, demanding that the terms of an international bailout be scrapped or radically renegotiated.

Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras had not planned to attend Monday's meeting, party officials said earlier.

"They are looking for an accomplice to continue their catastrophic work — we will not help them," Panos Skourletis, a spokesman for the party, previously told Mega television.

The political turmoil has taken a toll on markets across Europe. The Athens Stock Exchange saw shares drop 4.4 percent Monday, and the euro fell to $1.2839 from $1.2925 late Friday.

"Voices of support (in Europe) to Greece ... are becoming fewer and fewer, while there is a frenetic increase of those that are predicting the country's exit from the euro," an editorial in Greece's top-selling Ta Nea said. "The dramatic drop in state revenues during the election campaign and the serious souring of the atmosphere in Europe toward Greece mean that after almost certain repeat elections there will be a need for even tougher austerity measures."

Greece's two traditionally dominant parties, New Democracy and PASOK, were hammered in the election as the bailed-out country suffers through a fifth year of recession, with more than one in five Greeks out of work.

Since the election, Syriza has gained support and, in a survey published Monday, led with a projected 20.5 percent of public support, pushing New Democracy to second place with 19.4 percent, while PASOK was third with 11.8 percent. No margin of error was given in the Rass poll of 1,002 people, conducted May 10-11 for the Eleftheros Typos newspaper.

New Democracy and PASOK could form a government without Syriza, but the small Democratic Left party that would provide the required support is insisting that such a coalition would be unworkable.

"The president has invited us to a new meeting, and I will attend," Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis told Antenna television earlier. "I will repeat my position: that without the participation of the second-largest party, the government would not have sufficient popular and parliamentary support."

Shut out of main debt markets, Greece is surviving on rescue loans from other euro countries and the International Monetary Fund, which repeatedly have warned that payments will continue only if the country continues its draconian cost-cutting program.

Associated Press writer Colleen Barry contributed to this report from Milan.

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