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Greek right warns against euro 'catastrophe'

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(ATHENS) - Greek conservative party New Democracy Saturday formally launched its campaign for the June 17 election, warning a victory for the radical left would cause "catastrophe" and lead Greece out of the euro.

New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras laid into the radical left party Syriza, which has threatened to tear up a deal with international lenders that rescued Greece from bankruptcy.

"Everyone, centre-right, centre-left and green, whether they agree or not on the policies up to now on the loan agreement, all warn that opposing the loan agreement will lead Greece out of the euro," Samaras told supporters at a televised party rally in Athens.

"That of course will be painful for the rest of Europe, but it will mean the end, absolute catastrophe for Greece," said Samaras, whose party finished first during the May polls.

Latest opinion polls however show Syriza under its populist leader Antonis Tsipras, 37, could come on top in the next election after finishing second in an inconclusive vote on May 6.

Tsipras has said Greece could reject the bailout yet still stay in the euro.

New Democracy, which is part of the previous ruling coalition that signed on to the bailout deal has said it will seek to renegotiate parts of the package, under which it receives hundreds of billions of euros from the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

However it would not seek to scrap it outright as Syriza has threatened.

Samaras warned that breaking the terms of the deal would force it to return to the drachma, devaluing savings, driving up prices and lowering living standards.

"There is no society, no economy and no democracy that can tolerate such a sudden collapse," he said in a speech greeted by loud applause from supporters.

"If Greece terminates the loan agreement, it will remain isolated for many years internationally. It will not have food, medicine, or fuel. It will live in a constant blackout."

Fed up with two years of salary and pension cuts, Greek voters on May 6 punished larger parties associated with the bailout and catapulted Syriza to second place, piling pressure on Samaras to reinvigorate his party.

The liberal Democratic Alliance has merged with New Democracy and several members of the nationalist Laos party have also defected to it.

Outlining his policies on Saturday, he vowed to stop the rise of unemployment -- currently at 21.7 percent overall and 53 percent among the under-24s -- by the end of the year and to create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

Samaras attacked Syriza's pledge to raise taxes on high earners and vowed "no more reductions of salaries and pensions, no more new taxes".

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