Europe
6:36 am
Sun November 6, 2011

Initial Agreement Reached In Greece Power-Sharing

The Greek president's office said Sunday the country's prime minister and the leader of the main opposition party reached an initial agreement on forming an interim government.

In a statement read on Greek media Sunday night, the office said Prime Minister George Papandreou will not head the interim government and that talks on details of who will form the new Cabinet will continue Monday.

The announcement came after President Karolos Papoulias chaired crisis talks between Papandreou and opposition leader Antonis Samaras, capping a week of drama sparked by Papandreou's announcement he was taking the debt deal to a referendum. He withdrew the plan Thursday after intense opposition from European leaders and his own lawmakers.

The political turmoil had frayed nerves on international markets and seen Greece's cherished membership of Europe's joint currency come under threat. Greece is anxious to reach an agreement quickly on a new government, as it faces a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels on Monday.

The president's announcement said there would be a meeting between Papandreou and Samaras on Monday to discuss who will act as interim prime minister and the makeup of the Cabinet. Papoulias also would chair a meeting of the heads of all political parties.

Papandreou is expected to hold his last Cabinet meeting as prime minister on Sunday, a government spokesman said. Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos will represent Greece at a meeting of eurozone leaders on Monday.

Faced with an open rebellion from his own Socialist lawmakers and mounting pressure to resign, Papandreou had said he would step aside if agreement could be reached on an interim government that would secure the new European debt deal and the disbursement of a vital bailout loan installment without which the country will default within weeks. He survived a confidence vote in his government Saturday.

For his part, Samaras had insisted he would only sit at the negotiating table if Papandreou resigned first, leading to a stalemate broken by Papoulias' calling both sides to the meeting.

It's not clear yet who would step in as the leader of a caretaker government. Greek media have mentioned former Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, former Prime Minister Costas Simitis and former central banker Lucas Papademos.

Papandreou says a coalition government is the best way to safeguard both the Greek bailout and the euro. Although nearly all Greeks oppose austerity measures as part of the bailout, most want to stay in the eurozone.

Joanna Kakissis contributed to this report, which includes material from The Associated Press

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