NEWS

Leaders set to finalize deal

Lucas Papademos, a former deputy president of the European Central Bank, was early Monday tipped to become leader of crisis-hit Greece’s interim administration agreed late on Sunday.

After a bout of intense horse-trading and turbulent politicking, the country’s mainstream parties finally agreed to form a transition government to muscle a controversial international bailout through Parliament before general elections are called, possibly on February 19, reports early Monday said.

The deal was struck late Sunday after a meeting between Prime Minister George Papandreou and opposition leader Antonis Samaras at the Presidential Palace. The two leaders, both targets of scorching criticism at home and abroad for their handling of the crisis over the past few days, are expected to hold fresh contacts on Monday to finalize the deal and agree on the members of the new ruling body.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and New Democracy vice president Stavros Dimas, who is also a former European Commissioner, are also expected to participate.

The deal is seen as crucial for enacting a 130 billion euro ($179 billion) emergency funding package, needed to avoid a Greek default.

Greece was under strong pressure to reach some form of agreement before a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels on Monday.

Papandreou’s rule moved into endgame last week after an explosive decision to call a referendum on the bailout deal reached earlier in Brussels that frustrated European officials and threw markets into turmoil. Papandreou has agreed to stand down when the new government takes over.