Greek PM Accuses Spain, Portugal of Anti-Athens 'Axis'

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Greece's leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accused Spain and Portugal of leading a conservative conspiracy to topple his anti-austerity government, saying they feared their own radical forces before elections this year.

Greek PM Accuses Spain, Portugal of Anti-Athens 'Axis'

Tsipras also rejected criticism that Athens had staged a climbdown to secure an extension of its financial lifeline from the euro zone, saying anger among German conservatives showed that his government had won concessions.

Greeks have directed much of their fury about years of austerity dictated by international creditors at Germany, the biggest contributor to their country's 240-billion-euro bailout, Reuters reported.

But in a speech to his Syriza party, Tsipras turned on Madrid and Lisbon, accusing them of taking a hard line in negotiations which led to the euro zone extending the bailout program last week for four months.

"We found opposing us an axis of powers ... led by the governments of Spain and Portugal which for obvious political reasons attempted to lead the entire negotiations to the brink," said Tsipras, who won an election on Jan. 25.

"Their plan was and is to wear down, topple or bring our government to unconditional surrender before our work begins to bear fruit and before the Greek example affects other countries," he said, adding: "And mainly before the elections in Spain."

Spain's new anti-establishment Podemos movement has topped some opinion polls, making it a serious threat to the conservative People's Party of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in an election which must be held by the end of this year.

Rajoy went to Athens less than a fortnight before the Greek election to warn voters against believing the "impossible" promises of Syriza. His appeal fell on deaf ears and voters swept the previous conservative premier from power.

Portugal will also have elections after the summer but no anti-austerity force as potent as Syriza or Podemos has so far emerged there.

In an interview published before Tsipras made his speech, Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho denied that Portugal had taken a hard line in negotiations on the Greek deal at the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers.

"There may have been a political intention to create this idea, but it is not true," he told the Expresso weekly newspaper.

Passos Coelho aligned himself with euro zone governments which have called for policies to promote economic growth but without trying to walk away from austerity as in Greece.

"We were on the same side as the French government, with the Italian and Irish governments. I think it's bad to stigmatize southern European countries," he said.

Portugal had to take its own bailout in 2011 but left the program last year. Finance Minister Maria Luis Albuquerque said on Saturday Lisbon would start repaying its loans to the IMF next month, giving back 6 billion euros.

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