Greece's main opposition conservative party on Friday rejected a government plea for cross-party agreement on new austerity measures, despite strong pressure from the European Union and investor worries about a default.
Conservative leader Antonis Samaras said he could not endorse a program that would "flatten the Greek economy and destroy Greek society."
Samaras and other opposition party leaders met with Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou for more than three hours in a failed bid to reach a deal that would extend debt reduction measures to 2015, two years beyond the present government's mandate.
"After a week of scare-mongering, the Prime Minister sought a meeting of party leaders, although there was nothing new available and, essentially, without any agenda," Samaras said in a live televised address. "The only thing worth discussing right now is how to renegotiate the terms of the (bailout loan) agreement."
EU leaders, frustrated by slow structural reforms in Greece, have demanded agreement between Greece's two largest parties to ensure that a bailout program can run smoothly beyond the next general election, due in 2013. The Socialists have a comfortable majority in parliament but are facing increasing public hostility to the cuts.
President Karolos Papoulias chaired Friday's meeting after Papandreou failed earlier this week to gain broad cross-party support for the drastic 2011-2015 cost-cutting and privatization plan.
Debt inspectors from the EU, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, known as the troika, are in Athens to monitor progress on last year's 110 billion euro ($155.8 billion) bailout loan deal for Greece, which remains shut out of the bond markets and is facing a potential financing gap in 2012.
They will determine whether Athens has met criteria for a June loan installment, worth euro12 billion and vital to avoid a summer default.
But the crisis took an ominous turn Thursday, when Eurogroup chairman Jean-Claude Juncker reportedly said the IMF may have to hold back the next tranche, sighting a strict interpretation of Fund rules.
Asked about Juncker's comments, German government spokesman Christoph Steegmans replied only: "We are still waiting for the report from the troika mission that is supposed to come between the beginning and middle of June."
Amid the uncertainty, the main stock index in Athens closed down 1.7 percent on the day.
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