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Greece Appoints Caretaker PM, Sets Date for New Elections

Greek political leaders (from left to right) Aleka Papariga, Evangelos Venizelos, Antonis Samaras, Greek President Karolos Papoulias, Alexis Tsipras, Panos Kammenos and Fotis Kouvelis meet at the presidential palace in Athens, May 16, 2012.
Greece has sworn in a senior judge as the country's new caretaker prime minister.

Council of State head Panagiotis Pikrammenos was appointed Wednesday after major political parties failed to form a coalition government following several attempts to broker a deal.

The 67-year-old Mr. Pikrammenos will be tasked with organizing the country's repeat elections scheduled for June 17.

Analysts say the new elections, like those held earlier this month, are also likely to produce a hung parliament with no party securing enough votes to form a government. But a radical left coalition led by Alexis Tsipras, the Syriza party leader who fiercely opposes austerity measures, has gained enough support to have a major influence.

This could lead Greece on a collision course with the European Union, whose leaders have said the country will not get any more loans unless it adheres to the tough debt-reducing plan.

The Greek political impasse has rattled European markets and threatens to undermine the eurozone. The issue figured high in the first official talks Tuesday between France's new president, Francois Hollande, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. During the meeting in Berlin, the two leaders said they support Greece staying in the currency union.

"We have to respect the fact that there are new elections in Greece. So I speak for myself and have made it clear that we want Greece to stay in the eurozone and want its citizens to vote for this. Part of doing this is that the agreements of the memorandum [agreement with creditors] must be kept," Merkel said.

On Wednesday, the European Union Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, said that while the EU wants Greece to stay in the eurozone, there is no way to change the commitments the previous Greek government made for the austerity plan. As a result, he said Greek voters will have to decide whether to stay in the 17-nation currency union.

"This being said, the ultimate resolve to stay in the euro area must come from Greece itself. We are fully aware that the present situation is asking a lot of the Greek people and many sacrifices. But this is the result of policies made in the past," Barroso said.

The political stalemate in Greece has led to rising concerns among eurozone financial ministers that Athens will not uphold the austerity commitments it made as it secured the country's second financial bailout in the last two years.

The economic measures include deep spending cuts, tax hikes, pension cuts and eliminating thousands of government jobs. Greeks have taken to the streets in sometimes violent protests against the bailout requirements.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.