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Greek President Slams German ‘Insults’ as Bailout Talks Stall

Greek President Karolos Papoulias slammed Germany’s finance minister for recent comments about his country as stalled bailout talks stoked tensions between Greece and the northern European countries funding its rescue.

“I don’t accept insults to my country by Mr. Schaeuble,” Papoulias, who fought in the resistance against the Nazis during World War II, said in a speech today. “I don’t accept it as a Greek. Who is Mr. Schaeuble to ridicule Greece? Who are the Dutch? Who are the Finns? We always had the pride to defend not just our own freedom, not just our own country, but the freedom of all of Europe.”

Papoulias’s comments came as Wolfgang Schaeuble and other European officials pushed Greece to gouge more cuts out of its budget to qualify for a new bailout that would stave off an economic collapse. Schaeuble today blamed Greece’s New Democracy party, the second largest, for holding up agreement on a new rescue package and his deputy, Steffen Kampeter, compared Greece to a “bottomless pit.”

Greek politicians are expressing their frustration after European finance ministers last week rejected a Greek austerity package worth 7 percent of gross domestic product. That prompted New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras to complain that a gun was being held to the country’s head. George Karatzaferis, head of Laos, the third party in the governing coalition, said the country “could do without the German boot.”

Playing With Fire

“We are continually faced with new terms,” Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told reporters in Athens today. “In the euro area, there are plenty who don’t want us anymore. There are some playing with fire, domestically and abroad. Some are playing with torches and some are playing with matches. But the risk is equally great.”

Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker later said after a conference call with euro region finance ministers that he’s confident a decision on Greece will be made on Feb. 20.

Papoulias, 82, asked today to have his public salary stopped as a gesture of solidarity with Greeks amid the country’s economic crisis, Venizelos told reporters.

Papoulias receives about 300,000 euros ($392,400) a year, according to Bloomberg calculations based on government documents. The press office of the president couldn’t confirm the data. U.S. President Barack Obama received a total of $395,188 in 2010, according to his tax return published on the White House website.

Papoulias has decided to forfeit his annual compensation “as a symbolic gesture at a moment when the Greek people are called upon to undergo such sacrifices,” Venizelos said.

Demonstrators in Athens tore up marble in front of parliament, clashed with police and set 45 buildings on fire on Feb. 12, protesting against the government’s new package of spending cuts.

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