Top Portugal opposition chief 'hopes' to avoid bailout

24th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

The head of Portugal's main opposition centre-right Social Democratic party, Pedro Passos Coelho, said Thursday he "hopes" debt-ravaged Lisbon can avoid calling in a European Union bailout.

"I hope Portugal will be free of a bailout," said the early favourite to replace Jose Socrates, who resigned late on Wednesday after losing a parliamentary vote on deep new austerity measures.

"I hope the next election will bring a new government better able to control the deficit with a more stringent programme of fiscal consolidation," he added, as conservative European leaders gathered ahead of an EU summit starting 1600 GMT and rocked by the Portuguese crisis.

"We are obviously ready to step in and help, but Portugal has to ask first," Belgium's finance minister Didier Reynders said at a parallel gathering of EU liberal leaders.

© 2011 AFP

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