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Leaders enter second day of talks as Greece contemplates next PM

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou (R) and Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos wait for the result of the confidence vote at the Greek Parliament in Athens early on November 5, 2011. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou won a nail-biting confidence vote after pledging to initiate the talks to overcome a budding revolt from the party founded by his father nearly four decades ago. Greece on Saturday was to begin talks on forming an emergency government to drag itself out of political stalemate caused by two years of austerity as the shadow of bankruptcy loomed over the crisis-hit nation.


The Greek leadership vacuum has persisted into the weekend as the world watches anxiously to see whether the country will fall into bankruptcy.

Greek leaders entered a second day of closed-door talks Sunday to end an ongoing political crisis, under intense pressure to ensure the country doesn't go bankrupt in the next few weeks and that it remains in the eurozone.

Prime Minister George Papandreou narrowly survived a confidence vote in the early hours of Saturday morning by promising to quickly assemble a transitional government that would include his opponents and, possibly, exclude himself. Like many things in this easygoing Mediterranean country, however, Mr. Papandreou's action plan did not unfold with the sort of haste one might expect from a leader struggling to prevent a loan default that could cripple his government and hurt the global economy.

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Mr. Papandreou made a formal visit to the presidential offices around noon on Saturday and declared his intention to recruit opposition parties into a coalition that will govern for four months, securing financial aid in the short term. As a concession to popular anger over his handling of the crisis, he's believed to be pushing a plan that would see himself replaced by his finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos.

A major Sunday newspaper in Athens touted a front-page headline declaring Mr. Venizelos the next prime minister; there is speculation that he could be announced as the next Greek leader before he's scheduled to leave for Brussels on Monday to discuss the overdue release of bailout money, frozen by nervous lenders during political upheaval.

Another frontrunner for the job is believed to be Loukas Papadimos, former vice president of the European Central Bank. Even if they take power, however, Mr. Venizelos or Mr. Papadimos would be unlikely to lead a government that includes the major opposition faction, making it difficult to bring the lasting changes necessary to reassure creditors and reform the Greek economy.

Antonis Samaras, leader of the main opposition party New Democracy, gave an angry speech on Saturday that distanced his party from the new administration and called for immediate elections.

"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," Mr. Samaras said in a televised address.

Mr. Samaras said Sunday that no talks between the two parties were taking place and he also reiterated his stance that Mr. Papandreou must resign before any coalition discussions can take place.

With files from the Associated Press

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