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Greece sets date for crisis elections

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Debt-stricken country to return to polls on June 17Greek elections will be held on June 17, the Athens News Agency said on Wednesday, adding that a senior judge had been tasked with heading a caretaker government to organise the ballot.

Council of State president Panagiotis Pikrammenos, the head of Greece's top administrative court, will be named as caretaker prime minister, the semi-state ANA said on Wednesday.

Political leaders agreed on the appointment with President Carolos Papoulias after an inconclusive general election on May 6 which delivered a strong anti-austerity message and raised fears of a Greek eurozone exit.

After a third day of failed talks with political leaders on Tuesday, a spokesman for President Karolos Papoulias said the process of seeking a compromise had been declared a failure and a new vote would be held.

Fotis Kouvelis, leader of the Democratic Left, said his party "did everything possible, I did everything I could for the six per cent of the population that honoured me with its vote ... Unfortunately, our proposal for a unity government was rejected".

Leaving the talks, Antonis Samaras, the leader of the centre-right New Democracy, said his party was prepared to accept a government even without any New Democracy representatives, as long as Greece remained in the euro.

Nine days of talks on forming an emergency coalition had failed but there is no guarantee that the new vote will produce a viable government.

The radical leftist Syriza party, chief opponent of a massive EU-IMF bailout accord, is tipped to win, meaning yet more uncertainty over Greece's future in the single currency club for some time to come.

No 'middle ground'

Greece has been without a government since an inconclusive May 6 election left parliament split between supporters and opponents of a 130bn-euro bailout package reviled by many Greeks for imposing deep wage, pension and spending cuts.

Polls show the Radical Left Party, known as Syriza, which rejects the bailout and placed second in last week's vote, is now on course to win new elections, a result that would give it an automatic bonus of 50 seats in the 300-seat parliament.

"We resisted in every way," said Alexis Tsipras, Syriza's leader. "We made the decision to not betray your hopes and your expectations."

His party fought the election on an anti-austerity platform and blocked any deal with pro-bailout mainstream parties.

"Now it's time to complete it: We will consign in the dustbin of history all the spent forces of the past," Tsipras said.

Danger level

The turmoil in Greece sent shockwaves around other troubled members of the 17-nation European single currency area on Tuesday.

The euro hit a four-month low on Wednesday and Germany paid the lowest rate in its history to borrow for 10 years, according to new data.

Eurozone finance ministers have dismissed talk of Greece leaving the single currency area as "propaganda and nonsense".

However, with hostility to EU/IMF-imposed austerity rising in Greece, speculation about a possible state bankruptcy and euro exit is affecting financial markets.

Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF, said it was important to be technically prepared for the possibility of Greece leaving the eurozone, warning that such a move would be "quite messy" with risks to growth, trade and financial markets.


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