By The Associated Press
6:48 AM EDT, November 5, 2011
Embattled Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou on Saturday launched efforts to form a four-month coalition government, aiming to secure continued rescue funds for the near-bankrupt eurozone country.
Papandreou met President Karolos Papoulias, hours after winning a confidence vote in the Socialist-led parliament on a pledge that he was willing to step aside and form a cross-party caretaker government.
But it remains unclear whether the main opposition conservatives and other parties will take part in the talks and drop a demand for snap general elections.
Midway through his four-year term, Papandreou was into forced into the move by his austerity-weary Socialist party after he abandoned a disastrous proposal to hold a referendum on a new European debt deal.
Debt-crippled Greece is surviving on a €110 billion ($150 billion) rescue-loan program from eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund. It is currently finalizing a second mammoth deal: to receive an additional €130 billion ($179 billion) in loans and bank support, with banks agreeing to cancel 50 percent of their Greek debt.
Socialist party officials insisted any new government would need until late February to secure the second deal, warning that a snap poll could scuttle it. They insisted Saturday that Papandreou's offer to step aside was sincere, and called on conservative leader Antonis Samaras to urgently reconsider his party's position.
"If Mr. Samaras were willing to back a new government, the prime minister would resign today," Yiannis Magriotis, a deputy public works minister, told private Skai television.
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