By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — A meeting of Greece’s coalition party leaders has been postponed by a day as maneuvering continues between Athens and the international community to help the Greek government avoid default.
The talks on austerity measures were originally scheduled for February 7 and had already been postponed several times, but will now be held on February 8.
Prime Minister Lucas Papademos was to meet instead with representatives of the European Union, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund (IMF) later on February 7 to finalize the terms of a new bailout program.
Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on February 6 said the negotiations with international lenders were “so tough that as soon as one chapter closes another opens.”
The EU, European Central Bank, and IMF have made new austerity measures a condition of granting a second bailout worth 130 billion euros ($170 billion) that Greece needs to avoid default on its debts in March.
As part of the deal, private sector lenders are negotiating with Greece to write off up to 70 percent of the value of the money that the Greek government currently owes them.
Outside Greece, pressure has been rising on Greece’s national unity government to agree tough reforms.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told public radio that a Greek exit from the eurozone now would be less risky than if it had happened in 2010 when the Greek debt crisis first broke.
European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes told a newspaper that there would be no disaster if Greece left the euro.
The remarks prompted a response from European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, who warned that the cost of a Greek exit from the eurozone would be “higher than the cost of continuing to support Greece.”
The Greek government’s proposed austerity measures, including new salary cuts, job losses, and tax rises, brought the country to a standstill on February 7.
The country’s public transport and ports ground to a halt as members of two of the largest Greek public sector unions went on a 24-hour strike.
In Athens, police used tear gas to prevent protesters from breaking a cordon around the parliament building.
The Greek economy, which has already shrunk 12 percent since 2008, is expected to suffer a fifth consecutive year of recession this year.