NEWS

Lucas Papademos vows to keep Greece in euro

Lucas Papademos, a former vice president of the European Central Bank, was named the country?s new prime minister on Thursday after the leaders of the three parties participating in a new coalition government finally managed to overcome their differences following five days of tense negotiations.

Emerging from the president?s residence moments after his appointment was announced by President Karolos Papoulias, Papademos told a throng of journalists that he was confident that the new interim government he has been tasked to lead will be able to push through tough reforms on which crucial rescue funding depends. ?The country is at a crucial crossroads,? he said. ?The course ahead will not be easy but I am confident that the problems can be solved and they will be solved faster, at smaller cost and more efficiently if there is unity, cooperation and a prudent approach.?

The 64-year-old economist, who was educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has served as governor of Greece?s central bank, suggested that his economic insights would make up for his lack of political experience. ?I am not a politician but I have exercised economic policy in Greece and Europe,? he said, adding that his appointment was ?a great honor and an even greater responsibility.?

Papademos stressed that the new government would be ?transitional? and that its chief goal would be ?the implementation of the decisions of the October EU summit and the policies connected to that.? The priority, he said, is for Greece to remain in the eurozone. ?I am convinced that Greece?s continued participation in the eurozone is a guarantee for its stability,? he said.

Papademos refuted reports — leaked by Papandreou?s office late on Wednesday — that he had asked party leaders to meet specific conditions.

After the talks with the president on Thursday, outgoing PM George Papandreou, New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras and right-wing Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) leader Giorgos Karatzaferis made no statements. Officials from the three parties were dispatched to the premier?s office for talks on policy details.

Papademos and his new cabinet are to be sworn in at 2 p.m. on Friday though the composition of his cabinet remained unclear Thursday. It is widely expected that Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos will remain in his role and that the ministers of education, transport, health, agriculture and the environment will also keep their posts. It is thought that New Democracy will contribute around four party officials — not MPs — to the new cabinet and that two LAOS deputies will take ministry posts.

The appointment of Papademos was broadly welcomed by most parties. Leftist parties however rejected the development, with Communist Party (KKE) chief Aleka Papariga saying that the coalition?s main goal was ?to crush the popular movement shortly before the country goes bankrupt.? Members of the KKE-backed labor union, PAME, staged a small protest rally in central Athens last night.