Greece's New Finance Minister Hospitalized

ATHENS, Greece (AP) â¿¿ Greece's new finance minister was taken to the hospital Friday, hours after officials announced the debt-struck country's new prime minister was to undergo eye surgery for a detached retina.

Vassilis Rapanos, 65, was taken to a private hospital in Athens and was undergoing tests, the hospital said without immediately giving details. Greek media said he had fainted and that doctors recommended he be hospitalized for observation for two or three days.

Rapanos, a non-executive chairman of the National Bank of Greece, had been expected to be sworn in to his new post Friday evening.

The Cabinet of Greece's new three-party coalition government was sworn in on Thursday, but the ceremony for Rapanos was delayed so that outgoing Finance Minister Giorgos Zanias could represent Greece at a Eurozone finance ministers' meeting in Luxembourg. Another two Cabinet members also were not sworn in Thursday.

The president's office said only the two others â¿¿ Deputy Finance Minister Giorgos Mavraganis and Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Kourkoulas, would be sworn in Friday evening. It did not give a date for Rapanos' ceremony.

Just hours earlier, the prime minister's office said new Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras would be undergoing eye surgery Saturday for the initial stages of a detached retina. While Samaras, 61, returned to his office after the eye test, a meeting of his conservative party's deputies scheduled for Friday evening was canceled. He is to be operated on at Athens' Attiko Hospital.

Samaras was sworn in as Greece's fourth prime minister in eight months on Wednesday, ending a protracted political crisis that had raised fears of Greece being forced to leave the eurozone. Such a scenario would have global repercussions.

He heads a three-party coalition government with the socialist PASOK party and the small Democratic Left, a power-sharing deal that was formed after his conservative party came first in June 17 elections, but without enough votes to form a government on its own.

The formation of a government ended a protracted political crisis that had raised fears of Greece being forced out of Europe's joint currency. Anti-bailout parties that advocated reneging on Greece's pledges for more austerity in return for the international rescue loans have gained strong support after two years of spending cuts and tax hikes have sent the country into a deep recession, with spiraling unemployment.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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