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Greek PM's Status Looms Over Coalition Talks

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After a week of political turmoil in Greece that threatened the fate of the eurozone, Prime Minister George Papandreou is deadlocked with his major opposition rival in trying to form a coalition government to restore market confidence in the debt-laden nation.

The increasingly unpopular prime minister has not yet announced his promised resignation, keeping the political world on tenterhooks.

Papandreou insists a national unity government would provide broad parliamentary consensus for a crucial $179 billion bailout deal and partial write-off of Greece's debt mountain.

The deal will impose more budget cuts on an austerity-weary nation.

But Papandreou warns that if it's not formally approved, Greece's EU partners might doubt the Greek people's desire to remain within the euro zone and even the European Union.

More immediately, Greece risks not getting a vital $11 billion installment from a first bailout agreed on last year. That could unleash an uncontrolled default next month, when the country runs out of cash, and further undermine global trust in the whole euro project itself.

Antonis Samaras, leader of the opposition New Democracy Party, said he's determined to help, provided Papandreou resigns. But he didn't say explicitly whether he'll join a unity government.

The conservative daily Kathimerini described the political contest as "haggling atop the Titanic."

After two years of dithering and bickering that only worsened the eurozone crisis, European leaders are anxiously tracking developments. The watchwords are fear of contagion: The next possible domino is Italy, Europe's third-largest economy — with a debt that dwarfs that of Greece.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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