Greek PM replaces finance minister in reshuffle

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras replaced his finance minister with a finance and economics professor during a broad Cabinet reshuffle Monday following the conservative-led coalition government's weak showing in European parliamentary elections last month.

Outgoing Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras has been widely rumored to be taking over the governorship of the Bank of Greece. The current governor's term expires later this month.

Stournaras, who was appointed in mid-2012, handled Greece's bailout negotiations with the International Monetary Fund and European Union and oversaw the country's tentative return to financial markets earlier this year.

He is being replaced by Gikas Hardouvelis, chief economist at Eurobank who also served as economic adviser to two previous governments, those of socialist prime minister Costas Simitis in 2000-2004 and of Lucas Papademos in late 2011-mid-2012.

The finance minister is a key position in the country whose near default is broadly blamed for sparking a financial crisis in the eurozone.

"Greece is suffering. Every household has at least one unemployed person or someone who is working and not being paid," Hardouvelis told Greek television station Antenna Monday night in his first comments since his appointment.

Greece has been largely dependent on international rescue loans from the IMF and other eurozone countries since mid-2010, after a mountainous debt and gaping budget deficit left it unable to borrow on the international market. In return, successive governments have imposed deeply unpopular spending cuts and reforms, whose progress has been inspected by a troika of international debt inspectors from the IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank.

"Greece must find its way. It doesn't have just the troika to face. There is much to be done," Hardouvelis told Antenna. "We have a marathon before us."

Seeking to strike a balance with his coalition partner, the socialist PASOK party that suffered a dramatic collapse in popularity during the financial crisis, Samaras distributed new positions among members of both parties.

Other reshuffle changes include the ministers of the interior, public order, education, culture, health and agriculture.

The main opposition Syriza party dismissed the move as irrelevant.

The new Cabinet is to be sworn in Tuesday.

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