Under-fire Greece inches to deal on new crisis leader

As talks dragged on into a second day, outgoing socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou was to hold an emergency cabinet meeting at 1530 IST.

Former European Central Bank vice-president Lucas Papademos still appeared favourite to accept the poisoned chalice, although a series of demands he made to take the job apparently prevented him from being named yesterday.

State television channel NET said Papademos wanted to extend the new government's term to beyond February 19, a date tentatively set for a fresh round of elections, and appoint opposition conservatives to the new cabinet.

The names of two fall-back candidates were also circulating: 69-year-old European ombudsman Nikiforos Diamantouros and Greece's man at the IMF, 64-year-old former finance minister Panagiotis Roumeliotis.

But Papademos, a technocrat who has won international respect for his financial expertise as the right-hand man of former ECB chief Jean-Claude Trichet, was still front-runner, according to the Kathimerini daily.

"Papademos is still very much in the game," it said.

The political turmoil in Greece has threatened to derail a massive EU bailout hammered out last month.

In another day of high drama in Athens, NET said late yesterday that a deal had been clinched but a government spokesman later poured cold water on the euphoria, saying only that the two main parties had found common ground.

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