Greece's new tough-talking finance minister pledged "a real war" on Friday after embattled Prime Minister George Papandreou picked a team of political veterans to ward off economic meltdown.
Fighting against time to negotiate a new bailout with European peers, the PM reached across rival factions in the ruling Socialist party to quell dissent that threatened to burst into open revolt amid mounting anti-austerity protests.
"I am here by patriotic duty to carry out a real war," said Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, a former defence minister, as he took over from his predecessor.
Greece finds itself in a critical situation to secure new funds before its available resources run out next month, but the European Union and the International Monetary Fund demand action before extending additional aid.
"We welcome the determination of Prime Minister Papandreou and the Greek government to take the difficult steps necessary to guide Greece through these financial challenges," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
European Commission chairman Jose Manuel Barroso added: "I hope the new government can be approved rapidly, so that the process for continuation of financial assistance to Greece may continue smoothly."
The new cabinet was sworn in on Friday and will be put to a confidence vote to be completed by Tuesday.
Finance ministers of the 17-nation eurozone meet Sunday in search of common ground on how to address the Greek debt crisis that threatens to unsettle the entire currency area.
Venizelos, who had challenged Papandreou for the party leadership in 2007, will be attending that meeting.
"Papandreou has forged an alliance with his chief enemy," noted political analyst Ilias Nikolakopoulos.
"This will essentially serve to calm party rivalries," he told AFP.
Venizelos, 54, is a French-educated constitutional expert who previously headed Greece's frenetic preparations to host the Athens 2004 Olympics.
"We must proceed with greater efficiency, Greek citizens expect to see this," new government spokesman Elias Mossialos told state television NET.
"Clearly there are major social reactions, which are to be expected when there are so many cuts. We will strive to be efficient," said Mossialos, a former health policy professor at the London School of Economics.
Under fire from party backbenchers on Thursday for leading a failed effort to revive the Greek economy, the prime minister also slimmed down the government, axed a few unpopular allies and gave posts to dissenters.
Outgoing finance minister George Papaconstantinou, who was blasted by fellow party cadres for failing to jumpstart the economy after an 18-month effort, was given the environment ministry, a move analysts see as a demotion.
Papandreou also named a new foreign minister, 49-year-old Stavros Lambrinidis, formerly head of the ruling Pasok party's group of deputies at the European Parliament and a long-term confidant of the premier when the latter held the post a decade ago.
The reshuffle also saw deputy defence minister Panos Beglitis, another close aide of Papandreou, promoted to full minister.
Two other key officials who had handled tough reforms, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos and deputy labour minister George Koutroumanis, were given additional responsibilities, with the latter bumped up to full minister.
Papandreou's government is locked in tough negotiations with its European peers for a new bailout after a previous EU-IMF rescue was deemed insufficient to get the recession-plagued Greek economy back on its feet.
Athens has warned it will be unable to pay next month's bills without a 12-billion-euro loan instalment from the EU and the IMF, part of a broader 110-billion-euro bailout package agreed last year.
A critical vote in parliament on a controversial new austerity package worth more than 28 billion euros ($40 billion), demanded by Greece's creditors in return for the latest aid infusion, must be held by the end of the month.
Source: AFP Global Edition