Greece seeks new leader as EU demands 'clarity'

With the debt-wracked country under intense international pressure as it teeters on the brink of bankruptcy, the leaders of the top two political parties agreed late yesterday to form an emergency government before elections in February.

Outgoing Prime Minister George Papandreou and the head of the main opposition party, conservative Antonis Samaras, were to continue negotiations Monday on a new interim leader tasked with passing a massive EU bailout deal.

The two front-runners are Lucas Papademos, a former European Central Bank vice-president who enjoys wide international respect for his financial expertise, and Greece's current Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

Media reports speculated that a new leader could be named later today, ahead of a crunch meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Brussels due to debate the unlocking of vital funds to keep Greece afloat.

The EU ministers will discuss the disbursement of an eight-billion-euro (USD 11-billion) slice of aid from an earlier bailout package in 2010 that Venizelos said is needed by December 15 to pay the bills.

And there was no let-up in the pressure from Brussels, with a spokesman for Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn demanding Athens flesh out the deal before it can expect any more European cash.

"First we need clarity about political and economic developments in Athens, then we will proceed with this discussion today," Amadeu Altafaj told a news conference ahead of the meeting.

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