National

Greece seeks new government

ATHENS, Greece — Greece's prime minister struggled Saturday to form a temporary coalition government in the near-bankrupt country, extending a political deadlock threatening billions in international rescue funds.

In an impassioned plea to parliament late Friday, George Papandreou agreed to step aside as premier if necessary to help hammer out a coalition, offering to include the conservative opposition party — a possibility swiftly rejected by its leader.

Papandreou said a new coalition government would need four months to secure the new 130 billion euro ($179 billion) rescue agreement and demonstrate the country's commitment to remaining in the eurozone.

"Cooperation is necessary to guarantee — for Greece and for our partners — that we can honor our commitments," Papandreou said at a meeting Saturday with President Karolos Papoulias, hours after his Socialist government narrowly survived a confidence vote.

"I am concerned that a lack of cooperation could trouble how our partners see our will and desire to remain in the central core of the European Union and the euro."

But Papandreou's plea was snubbed by conservative opposition leader Antonis Samaras.

"We have not asked for any place in his government. All we want is for Mr. Papandreou to resign, because he has become dangerous for the country," Samaras said in a televised address. "We insist on immediate elections."

Samaras was due to meet the president this afternoon.

Frustrated with Greece's protracted political disagreements, the country's creditors have threatened to withhold the next critical 8 billion euro ($11 billion) loan installment until the new debt deal is formally approved in Greece.

Greece is surviving on a 110 billion euro ($150 billion) rescue-loan program from eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund. It is currently finalizing a second major deal: to receive an additional 130 billion euro ($179 billion) in rescue loans and bank support, with banks agreeing to cancel 50 percent of their Greek debt.

Midway through his four-year term, Papandreou was forced by his austerity-weary Socialist party into seeking cross-party support after he abandoned a disastrous proposal to hold a referendum on a new European debt deal — which prompted havoc on world markets and anger from creditors.

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