Initial agreement reached in Greece power-sharing

Monday, November 7, 2011
Greece's Prime Minister George Papandreou exits Sunday after a cabinet meeting at the parliament in Athens. (Kostas Tsironis ~ Associated Press)

ATHENS, Greece -- Greece's embattled prime minister and main opposition leader agreed Sunday to form an interim government to ensure the country's new European debt deal and oversee early elections, capping a week of political turmoil that saw Greece facing a catastrophic default and threatening its euro membership.

Greek leaders had been anxious to end a severe political crisis with some positive result before today, when the country heads to a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels. The initial agreement, which will see Prime Minister George Papandreou step down, came after a week of drama sparked by his announcement he was taking the debt deal to a referendum. He withdrew that plan Thursday after intense opposition from European leaders and his own Socialist lawmakers, many of whom called for him to resign.

Papandreou "has already stated he will not lead the new government," the statement from the president's office said.

He is to meet again today with opposition leader Antonis Samaras to seek agreement on who will head the new government and who will be included in its Cabinet, the president's office said.

A planned meeting with the leaders of all political parties represented in parliament, which was to take place tonight, was canceled after parliament's two leftist parties refused to attend, the office said.

The statement came after a late-night meeting between Papandreou and Samaras called by President Karolos Papoulias to end a two-day deadlock. Direct talks had failed to get off the ground as Papandreou had agreed to step aside but only after power-sharing talks settled on a new government makeup, and Samaras insisted he wanted snap elections and would not start negotiations unless Papandreou resigned first.

An opposition conservative party official said Samaras' party is "absolutely satisfied" with the outcome of the talks and that party officials were to hold meetings late Sunday night with Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and his advisers to discuss how long it would take to finalize the new debt deal and when elections could be held.

"Our two targets, for Mr. Papandreou to resign and for elections to be held, have been met," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the process.

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