Reports Greece Has Interim PM; Italy’s Berlusconi Survives Vote

Posted November 8th, 2011 at 2:35 pm (UTC-5)
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State-run Greek television is reporting that economist Lucas Papademos will be the country's interim prime minister as the debt-ridden country struggles to meet the demands of international creditors.

Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou, who is resigning as the country's leader, worked on an agreement Tuesday night with opposition leader Antonis Samaras on a power-sharing coalition government to serve until national elections early next year.

There was no official announcement on a new prime minister. The European Union demanded that top Greek officials sign a written commitment to carry out unpopular austerity measures as part of the debt-relief plan approved last month for Greece. Samaras balked at a written statement, saying that it was a matter of “national dignity,” and that his verbal assent to the plan ought to be sufficient.

Mr. Papademos, a former vice president of the European Central Bank, is viewed as a technocrat, and a non-partisan personality who can carry out the austerity measures that the international creditors are demanding Greece impose in exchange for more financial aid.

The European debt crisis also took center stage in Rome, where Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi survived a key parliamentary vote Tuesday, but without a majority. In what amounted to a test on his continued rule, the Italian leader got 308 votes, while 321 abstained. Opposition lawmakers immediately called for his resignation.

Italy is faced with imposing spending cuts to control the country's $2.6 trillion debt. European leaders are worried that Italy, with Europe's third largest economy, could be the next country to need an international bailout, but that the size of the financial assistance could be too big for the European Union to handle.

As Italy's financial fortunes weakened, its borrowing costs soared to record highs Tuesday. Interest rates on Italian bonds neared 7 percent, a threshold that forced Greece, Ireland and Portugal to seek international bailouts in the last year and a half.

In Greece, Mr. Papandreou demanded the resignations of his cabinet as he moved toward agreement on the coalition government.

European finance ministers were waiting for the formation of a new government in Greece before deciding whether to hand the country another $11 billion segment of its 2010 bailout.

Mr. Papandreou is stepping down in favor of a short-term coalition government after abandoning his call a week ago for a referendum on the European Union debt-relief plan to help solve Greece's financial woes. In Washington, the White House on Monday said it welcomed the Greek consensus on creating a new government and urged that it quickly implement financial reforms.