Greek leaders to pick new PM

Updated: 2011-11-08 08:02

By Derek Gatopoulos and Costas Kantouris (China Daily)

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 Greek leaders to pick new PM

Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos (left) and former vice-president of the European Central Bank Lucas Papademos. Greek political chiefs sought on Monday to put the finishing touches on a unity government. Agence France-Presse

Greek leaders to pick new PM

ATHENS, Greece - Greece's two biggest parties resumed talks on Monday to agree on who should be the country's new prime minister, after reaching a historic power-sharing deal to accept a massive financial rescue package and prevent imminent bankruptcy.

Fellow European governments wanted concrete progress by Monday evening, when eurozone finance ministers were to meet to discuss the possibility of unfreezing bailout loans that had been kept on hold while the country sorted its political turmoil.

Negotiators from the Socialist government and opposition conservatives held fresh talks on the telephone to hammer out the composition of the new 15-week government, which will be tasked with passing the 130 billion euro ($179 billion) package from the country's international creditors before elections. Prime Minister George Papandreou and opposition leader Antonis Samaras were also expected to hold further talks.

Former European Central Bank vice-president Lucas Papademos is being tipped as the most likely new head of the government that would serve until a Feb 19 general election.

Officials in Greece's two main political parties have confirmed that the 64-year-old former central banker is a candidate though there's no indication yet he would want the job, for however short a period.

None of the people being considered have been announced publicly.

The power-sharing talks were due to be concluded by the end of the day, with former EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, a conservative, also being considered for a senior government position, according to two conservative officials with knowledge of the talks. The officials asked not to be named, citing the sensitivity of the negotiations.

Papandreou and Samaras agreed on the interim coalition late on Sunday under mounting international pressure for cross-party acceptance of the deal following a week of turmoil in the markets as investors fretted over a disorderly Greek default and the country's possible exit from the euro.

As part of the deal, Papandreou agreed to step down halfway through his four-year term. Elected after a landslide victory a little over two years ago, Papandreou's stock took a big battering last week after his call for a referendum on Greece's latest rescue package, that was agreed less than two weeks ago.

Though the referendum pledge was pulled after Greece's main conservative opposition said it agreed to the broad outlines of the rescue deal, markets remain in a jittery state, especially as the country needs the next batch of bailout cash within weeks to pay off debts.

Associated Press

(China Daily 11/08/2011 page12)