Greece invites 5 parties to talks on new government

Seeking to end a nine-day deadlock, Greece's president met Tuesday with five political party leaders in an effort to form a new government after inconclusive elections plunged the crisis-hit country into further disarray.

The meeting will examine a new proposal brought by President Karolos Papoulias for a government of technocrats or respected personalities, after repeated negotiations for a coalition government collapsed. If no deal is reached, Greece will have to call new elections.

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.

The Communist Party declined to attend Tuesday's talks and the extreme right Golden Dawn party was not invited.

European markets took a break from Greece-related concerns Tuesday, while shares on the Athens Stock Exchange recovered slightly from days of heavy losses, gaining 0.48 percent at 586.84 after European Union finance ministers voiced strong support for Greece's continued membership of the eurozone.

New growth figures released Tuesday revealed the extent of Greece's ongoing crisis, adding urgency to the coalition talks as an extended deadlock would trigger fresh elections.

The country's economic output slowed by 6.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012, compared with the first three months of 2011, according to the Greek Statistical Authority.

The conservative New Democracy party won 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.

Tuesday's talks were joined by the leaders of New Democracy, Syriza, the Socialist PASOK, the Democratic Left and rightwing Independent Greeks.

The president's office released transcripts of an earlier leaders' meeting, on Sunday, during which Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras said he saw no sign of sufficient 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."

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