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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Greece, Allies Mourn Death of Papandreou

ATHENS -- Former socialist premier Andreas Papandreou, who broke the Greek right's long grip on power and infuriated allies with maverick anti-Western stands, died Sunday after a heart attack.

Friends and rivals across Europe paid tribute to him for his long fight to forge an independent and democratic Greece.

Papandreou, 77, died after a lengthy illness. He was prime minister from 1981 to 1989, and was re-elected in 1993 but resigned in poor health early this year.

A flamboyant and charismatic leader, Papandreou evoked strong emotions. Legions of followers refused to desert him during personal and financial scandals in 1988 and 1989. But his critics blamed him for nearly bankrupting the country and steering Greece into isolation from Western allies.

Former French culture minister Jack Lang called Papandreou the father of the rebirth of a "proud and open Greece ... even if his governing methods could be disputed."

The United States, denounced by Papandreou during his first years in power, called him one of Greece's most influential leaders and a key figure in assuring the triumph of democracy. He was best remembered for his opposition to a military dictatorship which seized power in 1967 and ruled until 1974.

"We have lost a part of our existence, that which guided us and defined us," said Costas Simitis, who took over as socialist prime minister from the ailing Papandreou in January.

Simitis, 60, opposed Papandreou's policies inside the party in recent years but called Papandreou "a part of Greece, Greece itself."

Papandreou was often vilified in the West for his embrace of Third World radicals and Eastern European communists after becoming Greece's first socialist premier but he had a huge following at home.

Many Greeks saw him as the one politician who stood up to powerful Western allies and who showered money on the poor rural areas of Greece.

"For us, the millions of people who believed in him and followed him, it is a black day. Half the Greek people lived in obscurity until Andreas gave us a voice. Even his enemies admit his greatness," said Anastasia Kape-Moustakli.

She was among hundreds of mourners outside Athens' Orthodox Cathedral where Papandreou will lie in state for three days. He will be buried at noon on Wednesday.

The blue and white Greek flag on the Acropolis was at half mast. Television and radio stations played special features on his turbulent life and political struggles throughout the day.

Politicians, celebrities and the public filed past his flag-draped coffin and say goodbye to the one-time U.S. citizen who returned the Greek left to mainstream politics.

"Greece is in mourning. Both those who worshiped him, and those who fought against him, honor him today," conservative Athens mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos said.

Doctors said Papandreou, who underwent heart surgery in 1988, died after cardiac arrest at his home in the northern suburb of Ekali.

Unseen in public for months, Papandreou resigned as premier in January due to poor health but kept his powerful position as leader of the party, which he founded in 1974. The post, which controls the party machine, is now up for grabs and a showdown between Papandreou loyalists and Simitis' pro-European reformers could be in the offing.

Papandreou's personal life was as stormy and colorful as his political life. A renowned womanizer, he campaigned for a third term in 1989 with his mistress at his side. He lost that election but married Dimitra Liani, a former Olympic Airways stewardess half his age. She appeared at the cathedral, looking exhausted and choking back tears.

Shortly after she left, Papandreou's second wife, Margaret, paid her respects with two of their four children, including Education Minister George Papandreous.