Greek finance minister resigns in blow to govt

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Greece's new finance minister resigned on Monday due to ill health, throwing the government's drive to soften the terms of an international bailout into confusion less than a week after it took office.

Vassilis Rapanos, 64, chairman of the National Bank of Greece, was rushed to hospital on Friday before he could be sworn in, complaining of abdominal pain, nausea and dizziness.

The mild-mannered banker, who was imprisoned by a military junta in the 1970s, has a history of ill-health.

The office of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who only took office last Wednesday following a June 17 election, said Rapanos's resignation on health grounds had been accepted.

Rapanos said in his resignation letter: "Following discussions with my physicians, I have concluded that my health would not at the moment allow me to carry out my duties fully".

Samaras has only just emerged from hospital himself after undergoing eye surgery to repair a damaged retina. Both he and Rapanos had already said they would not be able to attend the June 28-29 European summit.

It was a worryingly chaotic start for the new government, formed after the second election in a month and facing huge domestic opposition to a harsh international bailout and steadfast European opposition to any watering down of its terms.

Only hours before Rapanos's resignation, a hospital bulletin said he would be discharged on Tuesday. He had undergone a gastroscopy and colonoscopy, an official at the Hygeia Hospital told Reuters on condition of anonymity. The tests "showed everything is completely normal", it said.

According to a source from one of the three parties in the new coalition government, Rapanos had been under heavy pressure from his family to turn down a job in which he would have been charged with negotiating a softening of the bailout terms.

Earlier on Monday the three party leaders had announced a trans-Atlantic roadshow to try to persuade sceptical lenders to give them more time to repay the country's massive debt.

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