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Ailing Greek leaders miss EU summit

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of Greece is recovering from surgery.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of Greece is recovering from surgery.AFP/GettyImages

ATHENS — Less than a week after Greece ushered in a new government, uncertainty has returned in a rather unexpected form.

The nation's newly installed prime minister, Antonis Samaras, and his nominee for the crucial post of finance minister, Vassilis Rapanos, have been hospitalized since Friday after being stricken with ailments.

They will miss a crucial European Union summit meeting on Thursday and Friday that was intended to discuss whether to ease the terms of Greece's bailout conditions, a government spokesman said Sunday. The two officials will be replaced at the meeting by a ministerial delegation.

Rapanos, 65, who reportedly has a history of health problems, was supposed to be sworn in on Saturday. Instead, he was rushed to a hospital Friday after complaining of intense abdominal pain and nausea. Doctors said he was stable but would undergo additional tests and remain hospitalized until Monday night or Tuesday, pending the results.

Also Friday, Samaras, 61, underwent an eye operation. His doctor on Sunday forbade Samaras to move for several days.

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With the two officials in the hospital, representatives of Greece's so-called troika of foreign creditors have postponed a trip to Athens scheduled for Monday, state television reported Sunday.

The creditors — the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund — are supposed to review Greece's progress in installing the terms of a recent bailout package of $173 billion, something that they have been unable to do for several months because of the political upheaval here.

In the interim, $1.26 billion in financing that the European Union withheld from Greece until a government was installed is scheduled to be released by the end of the month. But Athens will only get to keep about $125 million of the money; the rest will go toward paying Greece's contribution to the European Stability Mechanism.

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On Saturday, Samaras' coalition government said it would seek to revoke certain taxes, ease the repayment terms for taxpayers owing money to the state, suspend planned layoffs in the public sector, and extend by two years the deadline for imposing additional austerity measures.

But the talks cannot take place until Rapanos is installed as finance minister.

NEW YORK TIMES