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New Greek PM, finance minister in hospital

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[June 23, 2012]  ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Greece's new prime minister and finance minister were both in hospitals Saturday, being treated for different ailments less than three days after a government was formed in the crisis-struck country.

The creation of a three-party coalition government following two inconclusive national elections ended weeks of political uncertainty that had led to fears of Greece being forced out of Europe's joint currency. Such an event could have dragged down other financially troubled European countries and dragged down the continent's economy.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, whose conservative New Democracy party came first in June 17 elections but did not win enough votes to form a government on its own, underwent eye surgery to repair the early stages of a detached retina.

The problem was discovered during what his office said was a routine eye test on Friday.

State NET radio said the surgery was completed successfully shortly after midday. The prime minister's office said a statement from the hospital on his condition was expected later in the day.

Although Samaras returned to his office Friday afternoon after his eye check, a meeting of his conservative party's newly elected deputies that had been planned for that night was canceled.

Separately, newly appointed Finance Minister Vassilis Rapanos, 65, remained in a private clinic after being rushed to hospital Friday suffering from intense abdominal pain, nausea, dizziness, sweating and weakness.

The hospital said Saturday that he had been submitted to tests, the results of which were "very satisfactory," and that his condition was "stable and improving".

It did not say what he was suffering from or give any further details on his condition, other than to say his treatment would continue "for the next hours." It was unclear how long he would remain hospitalized.

Rapanos, who was named to the post Thursday, has not been sworn in to office yet. His swearing in ceremony had been scheduled for Friday evening, but was postponed due to his illness.

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Samaras was sworn in as Greece's fourth prime minister in eight months Wednesday, after three days of negotiations which led to New Democracy forming a power-sharing government with long-time socialist PASOK party rivals, and the small Democratic Left party.

The government has pledged to keep Greece within Europe's joint currency and broadly stick to the terms of its international bailout from other European countries and the International Monetary Fund. But it has said it will seek to renegotiate some of the conditions of its rescue loans.

Greece has been dependent on billions of euros (dollars) of rescue loans since May 2010, after it became locked out of the international borrowing market by sky-high interest rates following years of profligate spending and poor fiscal management.

In return, it imposed harsh austerity measures, including slashing spending on everything from healthcare to education, cutting salaries and pensions and repeatedly raising taxes.

But it has still struggled to meet its fiscal targets, and the measures have plunged the country into a deep recession, now in its fifth year, and have sent unemployment soaring to above 22 percent.

Samaras faces his first test to his pledges to renegotiate some of the bailout terms next week, when he is due to go to Brussels for a European Union summit on June 28-29.

[Associated Press; ELENA BECATOROS]

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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