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Cosco's Piraeus port contract safe

Athens: Greece cannot backtrack from a disputed port deal with Chinese shipping giant Cosco that has sparked recurring strikes from protesting dockworkers, the Greek economy minister said on Sunday.
"There is no legal way to cancel the agreement, this would give a poor signal to international markets on the Greek government's credibility," Louka Katseli told Eleftherotypia daily.
"Cooperation with China is of strategic importance to Greece," said the minister, who also holds the shipping portfolio under the new socialist government that swept to power last month.
The new administration is in a tight spot over the 35-year concession of container facilities at the main Greek port of Piraeus to the Chinese trade giant, approved by the previous conservative government last year.
The socialists had criticised the deal as "colonial" whilst in opposition, but were cornered last month when Piraeus dockworkers began a series of rolling strikes that trapped thousands of containers in the harbour.
Their union wants the deal scrapped, fearing the new operators will bring large-scale layoffs and an influx of cheap Chinese goods will undermine the already shaky Greek family-owned store sector.
The latest strike began on November 3 and was to expire late Sunday, but the union announced another 48-hour stoppage for Monday and Tuesday.  [09/11/09]


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