Portuguese Socialist leader says won't budge on resistance to fiscal pact

Reuters

LISBON (Reuters) - The leader of Portugal's Socialists made plain on Thursday that his party would sustain long-term opposition to any cross-party agreement involving painful budget measures as the country's EU/IMF bailout nears its completion.

Portugal is likely to still need some kind of support program from the European Union when the bailout expires in mid-2014. President Anibal Cavaco Silva tried to forge a cross-party agreement in June between the two centre-right parties in government and the Socialists on future policy.

"What June showed is that an agreement with this government is impossible because this government is intransigent in its adherence to its (austerity) policies," Socialist leader Antonio Jose Seguro told journalists.

The June crisis was sparked by a rift between the ruling Social Democrats and its junior coalition ally, the CDS-PP, over austerity policies.

It was resolved when the head of the CDS was promoted to the position of deputy prime minister with a responsibility for negotiations with the EU and International Monetary Fund.

At that time the Socialists would not enter into any kind of agreement with the government. But Seguro's statement on Thursday shows he is not willing to have any pact with the government in the future either.

"We and the government have our own paths and it is impossible to cross those paths," Seguro said.

Fellow bailout recipient Ireland has struck a cross-party agreement on fiscal policy which is likely to help it emerge successfully from its program in coming months.

Seguro said "in Ireland there was a different attitude, there was a substantial interparty dialogue, while in Portugal the government prevented such dialogue."

(Reporting by Axel Bugge; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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