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Greek president widens govt talks to include 5 parties, tries to end the political deadlock
ATHENS, Greece (AP) ' Seeking to end a nine-day deadlock, Greece's president was meeting Tuesday with five political party leaders to try to form a new government after inconclusive elections plunged the debt-laden country into further disarray.
President Karolos Papoulias was bringing a new proposal to the meeting ' creating a government of technocrats or respected personalities ' after repeated attempted to build a coalition of elected politicians failed. If no deal is reached, Greece will call new elections for next month.
The protracted political certainty has left ordinary Greeks frustrated and worried about whether a government of non-elected individuals would work.
"The solution is provided by democracy and democratic procedures," said Athens resident Yannis Ekaterinaris. "This means that there should be another election and they should stop intimidating the people and engaging in tactics of terror."
No party won an outright majority in Greece's May 6 election, leading to an impasse that has shaken financial markets and led to questions about Greece's ability to stay in the eurozone. Power-sharing efforts have failed so far after the left-wing Syriza party, which came second in the vote, insisted that the draconian terms of Greece's financial rescue agreements be scrapped or rewritten.
Tuesday's talks were joined by the leaders of the conservative New Democracy party, the left-wing Syriza, the Socialist PASOK, the Democratic Left and right-wing splinter party Independent Greeks. The Communist Party declined to attend and the extreme right Golden Dawn party was not invited.
European markets took a break from Greece-related concerns Tuesday and shares on the Athens Stock Exchange recovered slightly from days of heavy losses, gaining 0.48 percent at 586.84 after EU finance ministers voiced strong support for Greece's continued membership in the 17-nation eurozone.
New growth figures released Tuesday revealed the extent of Greece's financial woes, adding urgency to the coalition talks. The country's economic output slowed 6.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012, compared with the first three months of 2011, according to the Greek Statistical Authority.
New Democracy party came in first in the May 6 election, but only received 18.9 percent of the vote as angry voters scattered to smaller parties. Second-placed Syriza, which received 16.8 percent in the election, is currently leading opinion polls.
The president's office released transcripts of an earlier leaders' meeting on Sunday, in which Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras said he saw no common ground with other parties. "It would be irresponsible to say one thing before the elections and something else afterward," Tsipras was quoted as saying.
Referring to possible repeat elections, he added: "We believe that a popular vote does not harbor the danger of catastrophe. How things are handled harbors the danger of catastrophe."
Separately, Greece saw interest rates rise slightly in the auction of 13-week Treasury bills. Greece raised '1.3 billion in Tuesday's sale, which saw interest rates rise slightly to 4.34 percent, compared to 4.2 percent in a similar auction in April. Demand also dropped slightly, with the sale 2.32 times oversubscribed, compared to 2.46 times in the April 17 auction, the Public Debt Management Agency said.