Papandreou announced his decision to PASOK's former president in a letter sent in reply to a letter he received from Simitis the previous day.
In the latter, the former premier had openly and publicly disagreed with the party line in favour of holding a referendum to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, saying that such a policy would be "adventurous" and potentially damaging for Greece.
Papandreou clarified that he did not intend to initiate formal procedures for expelling Simitis from the party's group of MPs, such informing the Parliament president, out of respect for the former premier's history, his contribution and their joint course in the governments of 1996-2004. He stressed, however, that he would no longer consider Simitis a part of the party's "force" in Parliament.
The letter adds that Simitis' views are "always examined with great interest" and Papandreou stressed his great respect for Simitis' work at the helm of the country and the constructive cooperation between them.
At the same time, he offered the opinion that the former premier has decided to act outside the framework of PASOK's decisions and "operate autonomously and independently". As Papandreou noted in the letter, this was something he could understand but not accept.
Referring to the issue raised by Simitis about whether Greece should hold a national referendum on the Lisbon Treaty - which was ratified by 250 MPs in the 300-seat Greek Parliament on Wednesday night - Papandreou said that he had already answered before the former premier had even written his letter, given that decisions on this had been taken at PASOK's conference and the party's Political Council that were clear and enhanced democracy in the country.
According to PASOK's leader, he interpreted Simitis' decision to make his letter public as an active refusal to fall in line with the rest of the Parliamentary Group, which he said was an "unjustifiable political act".
Papandreou also noted that Simitis' move engendered doubts and questions about PASOK's political will and direction, creating confusion and disorientation at a time when Greeks under New Democracy's government were already being sorely tested by high prices, lawlessness, impunity, corruption and the collapse of any sense of the rule of law.
He also underlined that these questions and doubts were being created at a time when people were turning toward PASOK, which was today a new hope and determined to win and carry out policies that would restore justice, equality, solidarity and humanity."
The statistical service said unemployment affected more women (12.7 pct) than men (6.3 pct), with the unemployment rate in the age group 15-24 totaling 27.1 percent, while in the 25-34 age group it totaled 11.9 percent.
The south Aegean (20.8 pct) region, Eastern Macedonia-Thrace (11.8 pct) and Epirus (10.2 pct) recorded the highest unemployment rates, while the North Aegean (5.4 pct) and Attica prefecture (7.2 pct) recorded the lowest rates in March.
The number of employed people in the country totaled more than 4.49 million in March 2008, while the number of unemployed was slightly over 442,000 and the number of financially non-active population totaled 4.28 million.
Caption: A file photo shows workers at a potato processing plant in the Achaia prefecture of southwest Greece. ANA-MPA / YIOTA KORBAKI.