Greece's third post-election bid to form a coalition government is still alive, with socialist PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos saying his talks with the small Democratic Left were a "good omen."
Hopes have risen that Greece could avoid a repeat election after two failed bids earlier this week by the two best-scoring parties in Greece's hung parliament - the New Democrat conservatives and the Radical Left or Syriza.
Venizelos, whose previously mainstream PASOK came only third in last Sunday's election, because of voter anger over internationally-imposed budget austerities, said he would enter talks with New Democracy's leader Antonis Samaras on Friday.
The Democratic Left, which holds only 19 seats in the 300-member parliament, is pro-European and favors a broad coalition to keep Greece in the eurozone.
Should those efforts fail, and if President Karolos Papoulias then fails to persuade the contestants to form a "unity" government, fresh elections would be held in June.
Survey reaffirms Radical Left
A new survey of voters on Thursday by the pollsters Marc showed the radical left Syriza ahead on 24 percent. Last Sunday, it had scored 16.8 percent, handing it 52 seats in parliament. Samaras' New Democracy controls 108 seats. PASOK got only 41 seats.
Democratic Left leader Kouvelis, who held talks with Venizelos on Thursday, has said he wanted to launch a "gradual disengagement" from the austerity program agreed with the EU and International Monetary Fund on March 9 in exchange for a multi-billion euro bailout.
But German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Greece must stick to its austerity measures if it wants to remain inside the eurozone.
"Anyone who tells Greece something else, isn't fulfilling their duty to the Greek people," Schäuble said.
On Thursday, the eurozone's bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), released a 4.2 billion euro ($5.4 billion) tranche, withholding another one billion euros for June. Athens in turn had previously promised to pass new austerity measures next month worth 14.5 billion euros.
International stock markets, in the doldrums since Greek's election stalemate, rebounded somewhat on Thursday, even though new Greek unemployment data showed that nearly 22 percent of its registered labor force is out of work.
ipj/slk (AFP, dpa, AP)