LISBON, March 6 Portugal's Prime Minister
dismissed on Wednesday increasingly strident calls for an end to
its austerity programme, saying the country needed to ensure its
European partners' support in regaining access to debt markets.
Pedro Passos Coelho spoke in the first parliamentary debate
since the main opposition Socialists last week demanded that the
government abandon its austerity drive, and after rallies on
Saturday where hundreds of thousands of protesters called on the
centre-right government to resign.
"It is only possible to have our partners ready to help us
in returning to debt markets as long as we are successful in
executing the bailout programme in a credible way," he told
parliament. "We need to proceed with firmness and resilience."
The government has recently said it may seek an easing of
its budget deficit targets under the EU/IMF bailout after a
worse than expected economic performance in the fourth quarter
Passos Coelho said Tuesday's statement by European Union
finance ministers regarding smoothing out the debt redemption
profiles for Lisbon's and Dublin's bailouts was favourable to
Portugal's efforts to regaining market access.
Despite the Socialists' demands, the centre-right ruling
coalition has a comfortable majority in parliament and Passos
Coelho said the government was fully capable of preserving
"Our partners who now support us can always count on the
government to provide the political stability necessary for the
country to preserve what it has achieved (under the bailout),"