Greece's political parties have been meeting for a second day to try to hammer out a new governing coalition. A deal could come within hours, a key politician said.
Greece appeared close to getting a new government on Tuesday as power-sharing talks led by Conservative New Democracy party leader Antonis Samaras continued into a second day. His efforts were aimed at hammering out a deal with the socialist Pasok party and small moderate Democratic Left parties.
"There will be a government, but I don't know if it will be formed by tonight," said Democratic Left chief Fotis Kouvelis. "I believe we will have reached an agreement by the end of the week," he told reporters.
A new government will most likely revolve around Samaras' New Democracy, which was the winner of Sunday's parliamentary election, earning 129 of 300 seats. Pasok and the Democratic Left won 33 and 17 seats respectively.
Samaras has until Wednesday to broker a coalition deal that broadly fulfills Greece's pledges to its EU-IMF bailout creditors - requiring further cutbacks and reforms. New Democracy and Pasok are pushing for a two-year extension to implement new austerity measures, which creditors would most likely accept.
Democratic Left wavers
Pasok leader Evangelos Venezelos said he was optimistic that a deal would be struck "within hours."
The Democratic Left's Kouvelis, however, indicated that the terms of the bailout "from which Greece must disengage" were a sticking point. The party opposes austerity measures in principle but is wavering.
The radical left Syriza, which also rejects further austerity, placed second in the election. It has ruled out participating in a government that backs the terms of the international bailout.
After meeting with Samaras, Syriza chief Alexis Tsipras made clear: "We will remain opponents."
ncy/tm (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)