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PAPANDREOU, GREECE’S 1ST SOCIALIST PREMIER, DIES

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Andreas Papandreou, the first Socialist prime minister of Greece and leader of Greece's ruling party, died at home early Sunday, news media reported. He was 77.

Athens radio stations interrupted their broadcasts to announce that Papandreou died at 2.30 a.m. at home from "heart failure."There was no immediate official announcement, but the radio stations reported that Premier Costas Simitis, who was elected by the Socialists to lead the party in January because of Papandreou's ill health, was returning immediately from a European Union summit in Florence, Italy.

Papandreou had not been seen in public since his release from a hospital March 21 after a four-month stay.

He stayed out of the public eye at his villa in the northern Athens suburb of Ekali with his 41-year-old wife, Dimitra, meeting only with a close circle of friends.

Because his kidneys failed during his long bout with pneumonia and a host of secondary infections that began in late November, Papandreou had to undergo dialysis every two days.

Papandreou founded the Panhellenic Socialist Movement in 1974 and led it to electoral victory in 1981, heading Greece's first Socialist government until 1989. Despite ill health, having undergone major heart surgery in 1988, Papandreou stayed on as leader of the opposition and brought the Socialists back to power in elections in October 1993.

Even after resigning as premier, he remained a powerful force in the party.