NEWS

Key ministerial posts to change hands

The prospects of a minor cabinet reshuffle loomed on Monday as reports suggested that Citizens? Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis, who resigned last week to run in a forthcoming contest for the leadership of socialist PASOK, might be replaced by Michalis Chrysochoidis, who is development minister but has twice held the public order portfolio.

According to sources, the government is concerned about the threat of a terrorist attack following the discovery of an incendiary device on an Athens metro carriage last month. The device did not go off due to a technical fault but the group that planted it -- an unknown organization calling itself Urban Guerrilla War (Antartiko Poleon) -- had not telephoned a warning, suggesting a disregard for the risk of casualties.

Chrysochoidis would be a logical choice for the role as he is regarded as having succeeded in both stints in the post and is credited with the breakup in 2002 of terror group November 17. But with the country deep in recession, his presence might be deemed crucial at the Development Ministry.

If Chrysochoidis ends up staying at the Development Ministry, it is likely that Greek Police Chief Lefteris Oikonomou will fill the gap left by Papoutsis. If Chrysochoidis leaves his current role, there is speculation about his replacement by conservative New Democracy MP and ex-minister Costis Hatzidakis though the deputy refuted the rumors.

Meanwhile, with the PASOK leadership contest less than two weeks away, the candidates have started to shape their political platforms. In a dig at Health Minister Andreas Loverdos, who has backed Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos in the race, Papoutsis said it was a mistake to talk of ?a possible new political construct involving PASOK and ND.?

Venizelos, who has yet to declare his candidacy, played down the low ratings of PASOK in polls, saying reporters should review the ratings once a new PASOK leader has been elected.

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