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Greek government hit by fresh resignation

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Yannis Stournaras (AP Photo/Eurokinissi, Giannis Panagopoulos)

ATHENS (AP) — A second Greek Cabinet member in two days has resigned, the latest casualty for the financially struggling country’s new conservative-led government.

Giorgos Vernicos, deputy minister for Greece’s Merchant Marine Ministry, announced his resignation Tuesday, and it was accepted by the government.

He did not immediately give a reason for his departure, but the main opposition Syriza party had accused him of maintaining an offshore company in what appeared to be a conflict of interest for a member of government.

On Monday, the designated finance minister resigned because of illness. And new Prime Minister Antonis Samaras himself is recovering from a weekend eye operation and will be unable to attend a European Union leaders summit later this week.

Greece is surviving on rescue loans from other EU countries and the International Monetary Fund. The new government wants to ease harsh austerity imposed by the emergency lenders as the country struggles through a fifth year of recession.

Also Tuesday, prominent economist Yannis Stournaras was named as the new finance minister.

Mr. Stournaras, 55, was involved in the country’s negotiations to join the euro. He is currently the head of the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research, a think tank and research body that advises the government.

A professor of economics at the University of Athens, Mr. Stournaras spent several years heading the Finance Ministry’s Council of Economic Advisers.

“I do think we have the ability to get past this problem. But we must be realistic,” Mr. Stournaras said about Greece’s financial crisis during a book presentation shortly before his appointment was announced.

“We have a difficult road ahead of us, an uphill road,” he said, “but Greece is a country with great potential.”

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