Greek PM demands quick results from new cabinet

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ATHENS, Sep 19 (Reuters) Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis today demanded immediate results from his new cabinet to boost public approval after winning a second term with only a slim majority.

Karamanlis, who was sworn in together with his team earlier today, told ministers to start work without wasting a day as the government prepares to tackle a series of thorny issues including reforming the ailing pension system.

''I will be closely watching the work done by every ministry,'' he told his first cabinet meeting since his conservative party's narrow win in elections last Sunday. ''We will be evaluated regularly.'' Karamanlis has vowed to continue the crucial economic changes Greece needs to catch up with its euro zone partners.

''We will operate with determination and focus on our aims and timetables, which must be totally met,'' he said.

Praised by the European Union for turning the economy round, Karamanlis had asked for a strong new mandate to push on with reforms such as shoring up the pension system and planned privatisations.

But a spate of forest fires that killed 65 people and a series of scandals eroded his party's support, cutting his strength in the 300-seat parliament to 152 seats from the 165 won when he swept to power at the expense of the Socialists in 2004.

Karamanlis retained key ministers, including Finance Minister George Alogoskoufis and Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyanni, but brought in several younger ministers and deputy ministers to give his cabinet a facelift and win back lost public support.

Alogoskoufis said economic growth and job creation would be his top policy targets, while fiscal consolidation would continue, aimed at a balanced budget by 2010.

He is credited with improving public finances in the last three years and shrinking the budget deficit to below the European Union's 3 per cent cap.

Greece has enjoyed buoyant 4.0 per cent growth in recent years but unemployment remains high and more than 20 per cent of the population still lives below the poverty line.

Karamanlis pledged to move ahead with necessary reforms to increase the country's competitiveness and improve citizens' lives.

''Not a minute can be wasted. What needs to be done for tommorrow must be done today,'' he said. ''All 152 of us will work together as one fist to face the country's problems.'' REUTERS SG KP1929

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