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Prominent banker named Greek finance minister

- Associated Press - Thursday, June 21, 2012

ATHENS (AP) — Greece's new conservative-led coalition government named its Cabinet on Thursday, appointing a prominent banker to take over the key position of finance minister.

Vassilis Rapanos, a non-executive chairman of the National Bank of Greece, has been a leading figure in the country's banking sector and also has taught at Athens University since 1992.

The three-party coalition government, created after three days of negotiations following a national election on June 17, aims to remain at the country's helm for a full four-year term, the prime minister's office said.

After weeks of political deadlock, having a long-term government with broad parliamentary support has eased market fears of an imminent Greek exit from the 17-nation euro currency bloc, an event that could have dragged down other financially troubled European countries and battered the global economy.

Antonis Samaras, whose conservative New Democracy party came first in Sunday's election but without enough votes to form a government on its own, was sworn in as prime minister Wednesday, pledging to restore hope to a country with a protracted debt crisis that has forced across-the-board cuts in incomes and public services. Greeks also are struggling to cope with soaring unemployment and a deep recession now in its fifth year.

Mr. Samaras met earlier Thursday with his two minority coalition partners — Evangelos Venizelos from the Socialist PASOK party and the smaller Democratic Left's Fotis Kouvelis — to thrash out the government's policy platform.

Since May 2010, Greece has been able to pay its bills only with bailouts loans from international creditors. Mr. Samaras' government will seek to renegotiate some of the terms of those loans but will ensure the country remains in the euro, the prime minister's office said in a statement.

"Its aim is to tackle the crisis, to open the road to development and to revise the terms of the loan agreement without jeopardizing the country's European course or its presence in the euro," the statement said. "And, of course, without contesting the obvious targets of zeroing the fiscal deficit, controlling the debt and implementing the structural changes the country needs."

The new ministers and their deputies were to be sworn in Thursday evening, except for a deputy foreign minister, who was abroad, and Mr. Rapanos, to allow outgoing Finance Minister Giorgos Zanias to represent Greece at Thursday's meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Luxembourg.

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