Greece awaits new unity government

Party leaders still locked in talks over who should replace outgoing prime minister George Papandreou.


    Greek political leaders are meeting to discuss the creation of an interim government and the appointment of a successor to George Papandreou, the outgoing prime minister, to steer the debt-crippled country through its financial crisis.

    Monday's meeting comes a day after Greek President Karolos Papoulias announced that Papandreou, who has faced months of popular protests over austerity measures introduced by his Socialist government in return for international bailout funds, would step down as long as a controversial $180bn bailout deal was approved.

    Papandreou met Antonis Samaras, the leader of the main opposition New Democracy party, on Sunday and agreed to form a new government.

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    "An agreement was reached to form a new government to immediately lead the country to elections after ratifying the decisions taken by the European Council," the office of Papoulias said in a statement.

    Greece's main political parties have also agreed that elections should be held on February 19, the finance ministry said on Monday.

    The leader of Greece's far-right LAOS party, which has 16 deputies in the 300-seat parliament, said on Monday it had agreed to join a coalition on condition that it did not approve further austerity measures or force privatisations.

    "No more cuts of wages and pensions, no concession of national sovereignty, no fire sales [of state assets]," George Karatzaferis, said.

    Details of the interim administration began to emerge on Monday evening, with an opposition source telling Reuters news agency that New Democracy wanted to keep Evangelos Venizelos, the current finance minister, and other economic officials in their posts.

    "We have committed ourselves and we will honour our commitments," the source said. "The economic ministries, such as Finance Minister Venizelos and his team, should stay for the sake of continuity."

    The Greek cabinet will convene on Tuesday, a government spokesman said, without elaborating on what would be discussed.

    Papademos widely tipped

    Lucas Papademos, a former European Central Bank vice-president and former governor of the Bank of Greece, is widely tipped to be named as interim prime minister.


    Political analyst Efthimios Tsiliopoulos discusses possible names for the new administration

    But Efthimios Tsiliopoulos, a political analyst, told Al Jazeera that Papademos remained a controversial choice for some owing to his stewardship of Greece's central bank in the early 2000s when many of the bond swaps blamed for the current upheaval took place.

    Papademos was also seen as a critic of the most-recent bailout package, agreed by Papandreou with European Union leaders last month, Tsiliopoulos said.

    "Thus there is a hinge, whether he is supportive of this package. Having to take over as the prime minister, he will have to pass this."

    Venizelos flew to Brussels for a meeting with eurozone counterparts to discuss releasing vital funds to keep Greece afloat.

    The EU ministers will discuss the disbursement of an eight billion-euro [$11bn] slice of aid from an earlier bailout package in 2010 that Venizelos said was needed by December 15 to keep Greece from going bankrupt.

    Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German finance minister, insisted that Greece needed to stick to its bailout plan obligations regardless of its domestic turmoil.


    Papademos: Greece's new leader?

    "Whatever will happen, Greece has to stick to what has been agreed. With a new government, with an old government, with new elections or a referendum or not," Schaeuble told a seminar in Finland.

    Greek business and church leaders have piled pressure on politicians to agree to a national unity government as quickly as possible, saying the country's future is at stake.

    "The future of all of us for the next decade is being decided right now," the Greek federation of enterprises said in a statement on Sunday.

    "The more the uncertainty lasts, the more the country is literally hanging by a thread," the group said, calling for a "bold compromise of political maturity and national responsibility."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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