March 19 - Newly elected Socialist party leader Evangelos Venizelos steps down as finance minister to focus on national elections. Sonia Legg reports.
He spear-headed Greece's marathon debt talks but Evangelos Venizelos has a new ambition. After nine months as Finance Minister he's standing down to focus on politics. He's just been voted head of the socialist PASOK party. He hopes to lead the party to victory in the up and coming election but he told the President there must be no let up in Greek austerity in the meantime. (SOUNDBITE)(Greek) PASOK PARTY LEADER EVANGELOS VENIZELOS SAYING: "During this period and until the elections and the formation of a new government, we must not relax or lose any more state income. We must keep control on state spending, and move forward with the new program. Any mistakes we make will be at the expense of the poorest and weakest members of the middle class." The party's former leader George Padandreou was also a former Prime Minister, as was his father and grandfather before him. He has no doubts either about the need to stay in the euro. (SOUNDBITE)(Greek) VENIZELOS AND FORMER SOCIALIST PARTY LEADER GEORGE PAPANDREOU STANDING TOGETHER IN PARTY HEADQUARTERS FOR THE HANDOVER, PAPANDREOU SAYING: "A progressive Europe is important and it is important that Greece - and the government of tomorrow - is part of that progressive Europe. Evangelos Venizelos has taken on significant responsiblities, and I wish him the best." But Venizelos will need all the support he can get. Opinion polls show his party has been weakened by the unpopular austerity measures he helped introduce in return for an EU/IMF bailout. A coalition is the likely outcome and there's no news yet on who will take over as Finance Minister in the meantime under the current technocract leader Lucus Papademos. Sonia Legg, Reuters.