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Official: Greece may delay next election

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A junior partner in Greece’s new interim government said Friday the next national election may be held later than planned to allow the coalition to complete its mandate.

Giorgos Karatzaferis, leader of the right-wing populist LAOS party, said the three-party coalition is finding it difficult to operate under the “very tight deadline” set when the government was formed on Nov. 11. For that reason, he said, it may hold the next national vote later than Feb. 19, the date it provisionally agreed to.

The coalition government — headed by former central banker Lucas Papademos — includes Greece’s majority Socialists, LAOS and the main opposition conservatives. Its assignment is to restart emergency loan payments and secure a massive new rescue deal from eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund.

“It’s becoming clear to all of us that we cannot function under this very tight deadline,” Karatzaferis said after a meeting with Prime Minister Papademos. “So it’s evident to everyone that the date of the next general election must come after the Papademos government completes the difficult task it has undertaken.”

Eurozone countries have frozen rescue payments to Greece, seeking firm cross-party commitments to the bailout program, and are expected to review that position next week.

The new bailout plan, still being negotiated, would grant Greece and its banks (euro) 130 billion ($172 billion) in loans and assistance, under more favorable terms that those currently in force, and involve private holders of Greek bonds to take 50 percent voluntary losses.

Greece is being kept afloat by a first international bailout worth (euro) 110 billion agreed in May 2010. In return for the cash lifeline, the government imposed deeply resented austerity measures, cutting pensions and salaries while increasing taxes and retirement ages.

Revised Finance Ministry forecasts released Friday indicated that new cutbacks worth a total (euro) 7 billion ($9.26 billion) may be needed for 2013-2015 if the country will meet its deficit reduction targets.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos has said that decisions on new measures are expected in June 2012.

The new forecasts foresee the public debt reaching 145.5 percent of gross domestic product in 2012, before declining to 125.6 percent in 2015.

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