Europe

Greece swears in unity cabinet and PM Lucas Papademos

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Media captionLucas Papademos being sworn in as the new Greek prime minister

Greece's new coalition cabinet and PM Lucas Papademos have been sworn in after a week of political turmoil.

The new government's most pressing task is to approve Greece's recent EU bailout package and avoid bankruptcy.

Mr Papademos, who is not an elected MP, has said his priority will be to keep Greece in the eurozone.

He is tasked with putting the debt-laden country back on track until elections, probably in February.

Outgoing Prime Minister George Papandreou was forced to step aside after a disastrous call for a referendum on the eurozone rescue package.

The referendum plan was dropped within a few days, but not before sparking a financial and political crisis that threatened to engulf the eurozone.

A number of key posts remain under the control of Mr Papandreou's Socialist Pasok party - Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos has retained his post.

Mr Venizelos said the government's first priority was to secure the next 8bn-euro ($11bn; £6.8bn) tranche of bailout money to prevent the country from running out of cash.

It needed to reaffirm its austerity commitments to lenders but no new measures would be needed, he said.

'Difficult path'

Former EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas, from the main opposition New Democracy party, is the new foreign minister. The defence portfolio has gone to his party colleague, former Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos.

Several members of the nationalist Laos party have been appointed, including the new Infrastructure Minister Makis Voridis.

Mr Papademos, a former vice president of the European Central Bank (ECB), swore his oath of office in front of Archbishop Ieronymos, head of the Church of Greece, in a ceremony watched by President Carolos Papoulias and members of the new cabinet.

Speaking later to Mr Papandreou, he said he was optimistic about the outcome.

"The new government of cooperation will do the best it can possibly do to address the country's problems," he said.

"With the unity of all people, we will succeed."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel offered her support to the new prime minister.

"I look forward to working with you and assure you that Germany will stand by you and the Greek people in the struggle to contend with our shared challenges in Europe and the eurozone," she said in a telegram.

"Great hopes and expectations have been placed upon you."

French President Nicolas Sarkozy wrote to him in a letter: "I am delighted to see the creation, under your leadership, of a government of broad national unity that can ensure the full implementation of the accord of 27 October and the measures it calls for."

The BBC's Mark Lowen in Athens says Mr Papademos must introduce further austerity measures to stabilise the country.

However, the broad support he enjoys should allow him to push them through - the new coalition controls 254 out of 300 parliamentary seats.

Mr Papademos was named as interim prime minister on Thursday after days of behind-the-scenes negotiations by Greece's main political parties.

After the new cabinet was appointed, a debate was due to begin in parliament that will culminate in a confidence vote on Mr Papademos on Sunday or Monday, Greek media reported.

Mr Papademos said his first priorities would be to ratify the 130bn euro ($177bn; £111bn) rescue package agreed at an EU summit last month, and to implement the policies linked to it.