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Greeks favor selloffs to end debt crisis: poll

A protester hits a pot during a protest rally against a new austerity package in front of the parliament building in Athens
A protester hits a pot during a protest rally against a new austerity package in front of the parliament building in Athens

ATHENS (Reuters) - An overwhelming majority of Greeks are in favor of selling and developing state assets to raise 50 billion euros ($71.19 billion) to avoid a default on the country's crippling debt load, a poll found on Sunday.

The Kapa Research poll for To Vima newspaper showed that about 80 percent of respondents agreed Greece should use its assets to help consolidate public finances.

But some 83 percent doubted the government's ability to implement such an ambitious program and said Prime Minister George Papandreou should take over the scheme.

About 48 percent said Greece's first priority should be boosting growth, 38 percent suggested proceeds from assets sales should be used to kick start the economy and 35 percent said the money should be used to help pay down its towering debt.

European Union officials have asked Athens to step up privatizations urgently and suggested setting up a trustee institution to help oversee the process, similar to the body that privatized East German companies after the fall of communism.

First in line for privatization will be divestments in Savings Post Bank , OTE Telecom and the country's two biggest ports.

A second wave next year will include an up to 34 percent stake in gaming firm OPAP and an up to 17 percent of Public Power Corp (PPC) .

Some 71 percent agreed with Greece selling its stake in OPAP with 65 percent favoring PPC's stake sale.

The nationwide poll conducted with a sample of 1,264 people May 17-20 also showed that nine of 10 Greeks backed the government's plan to redevelop the site of the capital's old airport at Hellenikon. Officials have said the project could raise 5-7 billion euros.

In another opinion poll on Saturday, the ruling Socialists lost their lead for the first time since 2009 elections, while another showed them slightly ahead of the opposition.

Struggling to impose austerity measures to pull the country back from the brink of bankruptcy, the ruling PASOK socialists are seeing their popularity wane, while the main New Democracy opposition party is not benefiting their opponents' decline.

"Citizens seem to be disappointed and exhausted from the economic policies," Pulse head George Arapoglou said. "PASOK continues to slide so New Democracy was expected to come ahead although it shows no marked improvement."

The next election is due in late 2013.

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; editing by Michael Roddy)

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