Paris (AFP) May 7, 2010
France and Germany, while publicly urging Greece to make harsh public spending cuts, bullied its government to confirm billions of euros in arms deals, a leading Euro-MP alleged Friday.
Franco-German lawmaker Daniel Cohn-Bendit said that Paris and Berlin are seeking to force Prime Minister George Papandreou to spend Greece's scarce cash on submarines, a fleet of warships, helicopters and war planes.
The accusation drew a stern denial from the French government.
"Times are severe enough without wasting time on base controversies that lack any foundation," an aide to Prime Minister Francois Fillon told reporters.
Cohn-Bendit said he had met last week in Athens with Papandreou, a long-time friend of his, and accused Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's President Nicolas Sarkozy of blackmailing the Greek leader.
Cohn-Bendit accused France and Germany of making their contributions to an IMF-led rescue package for the debt-ridden Greek economy contingent on Athens honouring massive arms deals signed by Papandreou's predecessor.
"It's incredible the way the Merkels and Sarkozys of this world treat a Greek prime minister," he declared, adding that Papandreou had recently met Sarkozy and French Prime Minister Francois Fillon in Paris.
"Mr Fillon and Mr Sarkozy told Mr Papandreou: 'We're going to raise the money to help you, but you are going to have to continue to pay the arms contracts that we have with you'," Cohn-Bendit said.
"In the past three months we have forced Greece to confirm several billion dollars in arms contracts. French frigates that the Greeks will have to buy for 2.5 billion euros. Helicopters, planes, German submarines."
Despite its economic woes, which recently deepened spectacularly when its credit rating was downgraded, Greece is one of Europe's biggest arms buyers, seeking to keep pace with its regional rival Turkey.
French lawmakers this week sealed France's 16.8-billion-euro (21-billion-dollar) contribution to a joint European-IMF loan package to save Greece from a debt default.
Cohn-Bendit, a former leader of the 1968 student revolt in Paris, is leader of the Green group in the European parliament.
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