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Former Greek premier Papandreou
dead after prolonged illness

Andreas Papandreou, 1919-1996

June 22, 1996
Web posted at: 11:15 p.m. EDT (0315 GMT)

From Correspondent David Compton

ATHENS, Greece (CNN) -- Andreas Papandreou, the Harvard-educated Socialist who dominated Greek politics in the 1980s and early '90s, died of heart failure in his home early Sunday. He was 77.

He was last seen in public on March 21, as he returned home from the hospital. He stayed at home since then with his wife Dimitra, meeting only with close family and friends. Papandreou had to undergo dialysis every other day because his kidneys failed during his long bout with pneumonia and a number of other infections beginning in late November.

Papandreou resigned a Greek prime minister in January with two years remaining in his term, saying he was too weak to continue after two months in a hospital intensive care unit for lung and kidney failure. Papandreou was replaced by Costas Simitis, who is serving out his term.

Headline announcing Papandreaou's resignation

Even after resigning as premier, Papandreou remained a powerful force in the Socialist party, which is scheduled to hold its fourth congress since its founding beginning Thursday.

In his younger years, Papandreou was a rebel, doing things his own way and ignoring the criticism of rivals at home and abroad . Papandreou became a power player in Greek politics in 1974 when he founded the Socialist Pasok party. He would rule the Socialists with an iron grip for more than two decades.

Known for his fiery speeches and nationalist rhetoric, Papandreou was anti-American, anti-European, anti-almost everything that was not Greek or Socialist. In 1981, he took the nation by storm, becoming prime minister when his Socialists came to power in a landslide election victory. At various times he vowed to pull Greece out of NATO and the European union, promises he never kept, but which won him fanatical support at home.

Failing health, but still popular

Speaking

Papandreou won a second term as prime minister in the mid-1980s, but his luck began to run out later that decade. Health problems sapped some of his once-boundless energy, and he had open heart surgery in London in 1988. Nevertheless, Papandreou remained an extremely popular leader. Some followers even offered to donate their hearts if their hero needed a transplant.

After leaving the hospital, he arrived back in Greece in true Papandreou style with his young mistress, former airline flight attendant Dimitra Liani, at his side. He divorced his wife, Margaret Papandreou, and declared his mistress the new first lady of Greece. A year later they married.

Scandals about his private life he could fight off, but it was a political scandal that forced Papandreou out of office. In 1989 he was accused of helping to embezzle hundreds of millions of dollars by ordering state corporations to transfer their holdings to the Bank of Crete, where the interest was allegedly skimmed off to benefit the Socialists.

With the scandal hanging over his head and Greece's economy turning sour, the Socialists fell out of favor and Papandreou lost power -- but not for long.

Later years

In 1992, he was cleared of any connection to the financial scandal and was once again elected prime minister. But time had mellowed the fiery Papandreou. He still knocked heads with European and U.S. leaders, but his rhetoric had been toned down. He even began to court the approval and economic help of other Western nations and talked of privatizing some state-run industries.

Some things did not change. Papandreou still ruled the Socialists, making sure no other party members became too popular or powerful. But age and illness had taken their toll. In his final years, Papandreou shied away from public appearances, and cabinet meetings became less and less frequent. In the end it was failing health, not political rivals, that ended the Papandreou era.

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