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Greece Names Papademos PM; Italy Is Iffy

ATHENS, Greece, Nov. 10 (UPI) — Negotiators, after days of haggling, named economist Lucas Papademos as Greece’s new prime minister to lead a unity government Thursday.

The government pledged to quickly approve stringent terms of a European financial aid package and save the country from going into bankruptcy under crushing debt, The New York Times reported.

A statement issued by President Karolos Papoulias read on Greek television confirmed Papademos’ appointment and said the main role of the interim administration “will be the implementation of the decisions of the European Union summit of Oct. 26 and the policies that are connected to this.”

Papademos, a former European Central Bank vice president, said after his appointment that Greece faces dire problems.

“The course will not be easy,” he said. “But the problems, I’m convinced, will be solved. They will be solved faster, with a smaller cost and in an efficient way, if there is unity, agreement and prudence.”

After months of protests across Greece and mounting pressure from the European Union, Prime Minister George Papandreou agreed Sunday to step down once a coalition government was formed. But talks dragged on for several days over demands made by Papademos, including his insistence to a minimum of at least six months as prime minister. Greece’s major political parties had agreed to elections in 100 days.

Papademos also insisted that he name his own finance minister, setting up current minister Evangelos Venizelos as a potential rival in the next election for prime minister.

In a televised speech reviewing his accomplishments, Papandreou said, “Today, we leave aside our differences … (seeking ) a common effort to ensure the country moves forward, not only to remain part of the eurozone but also to emerge from the crisis.”

It wasn’t clear immediately whether Papademos’ demands were met, the Times said.

In Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi seemed to be shifting his position on possibly supporting a unity government led by former European Commissioner Mario Monti once Berlusconi steps down, the ANSA news agency reported.

Berlusconi had said early elections should be conducted in February after agreeing to resign following the loss of his majority in Parliament. Italy faces a possible default on its debt and financial disaster.

The departing prime minister later told allies the prospect of a Monti-led government seemed inevitable because of the need to ensure the country’s political leadership doesn’t become rudderless, sources at a meeting at Berlusconi’s residence told ANSA.

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano made Monti a life senator Wednesday, signaling the president thinks a Monti-led interim government is the best solution, observers said. Monti is a respected economist and former commissioner for competition and for the internal market who isn’t aligned with any political party.

But divisions remain. The People of Freedom Party was split within its own ranks with some voicing approval for an emergency government.

Others aligned themselves with the Northern League, which has said it would oppose an interim government.

Berlusconi has said he will resign once lawmakers pass economic reforms demanded by the European Union. The lower house of Parliament is expected to approve the economic reform package Saturday.

UPI - United Press International, Inc.

Since 1907, United Press International (UPI) has been a leading provider of critical information to media outlets, businesses, governments and researchers worldwide.

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