Greece's new prime minister takes office
Greece’s new prime minister, Lucas Papademos, was sworn into office Friday as the head of an interim coalition government that will attempt to push through an unpopular new bailout plan stitched together last month by European leaders to stave off a Greek default.
Papademos’ predecessor, George Papandreou, announced Sunday that he would step down after narrowly winning a vote of confidence. Lawmakers on all sides had called on him to let a less divisive figure take over and guide the country through its debt crisis.
“The new cooperation government will do the best it can to address the country's problems, and I believe that with the cooperation of all — and the new government stresses this — and the unity of all, we will achieve that,” Papademos told Papandreou during Friday’s handover, according to the Associated Press.
Papademos, a 64-year-old banker and visiting professor at Harvard University, was selected after days of haggling between Greece's two main parties. His Cabinet, announced earlier Friday, includes members of the former ruling Socialist and conservative New Democracy parties, as well as a small nationalist party.
Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos retained his post, news reports said.
The change in government follows intense pressure from European officials who wanted to see quick implementation of the bailout plan -– the second in as many years for Greece -- to prevent its debt crisis from spilling over to larger economies such as Spain and Italy. Officials had warned that failure to form a unity government could spell Greece’s exit from the euro currency system.
The European plan calls for private banks to take a 50% write-down on the value of Greek bonds they hold and for the Greek government to get a $140-billion loan.
Under a deal reached by Greece's Socialists and conservatives, the new government will remain in office until implementation of the bailout plan is secured and then new elections will be held.
-- Alexandra Zavis in Los Angeles
Photo: Lucas Papademos is sworn in as Greece's new prime minister at the presidential palace in Athens on Friday. Credit: Panayiotis Tzamaros / Reuters