Top Portugal opposition figure 'hopes' to avoid bailout

24th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

The head of Portugal's main opposition said Thursday he "hopes" to avoid an EU bailout, and that caretaker premier Jose Socrates, who resigned overnight, "no longer has a mandate" to negotiate.

The early favourite to become the new head of government in Lisbon, Pedro Passos Coelho said he "hopes" debt-ravaged Lisbon can avoid calling in a European Union bailout.

"I hope Portugal will be free of a bailout," said the leader of the centre-right Social Democratic party at a meeting of conservative European leaders ahead of an EU summit rocked by the Portuguese crisis.

Socrates quit Wednesday after losing a parliamentary vote on deep new austerity measures and is attending the summit in a caretaker capacity.

"The current government no longer has a mandate to negotiate a bailout," Passos Coelho said.

"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.

Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders, speaking at a parallel meeting of EU liberal leaders, said the EU was ready to help if Lisbon requests it.

"We are obviously ready to step in and help, but Portugal has to ask first," Reynders said.

© 2011 AFP

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