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Monday, 31 December, 2001, 19:09 GMT
Argentina 'to cancel' elections
Interim President Adolfo Rodriguez Saa addressing the nation on television
The interim president announced his resignation on TV
Argentina's political parties have agreed to postpone presidential elections to enable an interim leader to stay in the position for longer, party officials have said.

A new caretaker president - the third in just over a week - will be appointed at an emergency session of Congress on Tuesday.

I am begging people not to demonstrate, so we can have a chance to solve this crisis

Eduardo Camano, stand-in president
This follows the resignation of interim President Adolfo Rodriguez Saa after only seven days in office.

Mr Saa said he did not have the support of his own Peronist colleagues to take on Argentina's worsening economic crisis.

The head of the lower house of Congress, Peronist deputy Eduardo Camano, is standing in until a new interim president is named.

Correspondents say there has been a frantic round of telephone calls and negotiations to decide who the Peronist party might put forward as their new candidate.

Several names have been mentioned, most of them party stalwarts.

Police officer guards the front of Government House
Congress is to meet in emergency session
But, says the BBC's Daniel Schweimler in Buenos Aires, they are from the old guard, and the Argentine people have made it clear they want a new leadership, not tainted by corruption or by the policies that got Argentina into turmoil in the first place.

The assembly will also rule that elections planned for 3 March will be suspended and the new interim president will complete the current four year term of office which will take him to the end of 2003.

Mr Camano has urged people not to demonstrate on the streets before congress meets.

"I am begging people not to demonstrate, so we can have a chance to solve this crisis," he said.

"If they want to bang pots, I ask that they do it at home."

No support for reforms

Mr Rodriguez Saa announced his resignation in a dramatic late-night televised address.

Demonstrators in Chapadmalal
The protesters are from all classes

Correspondents say his departure leaves the country without a clear consensus on how to resolve the crisis, which has prompted mass street protests.

Power should have passed automatically to Senate Chairman Ramos Puerta, but he too resigned minutes later on grounds of ill-health.

Mr Rodriguez Saa's resignation took effect immediately, although he had been due to hold office until elections in March.

"I did not have any other choice," he told stunned TV viewers.

He listed his achievements during his short time in office as suspending payments on the country's foreign debt and announcing new austerity measures.

Drummed out

His residence had been besieged by angry demonstrators who banged pots and pans in a scaled-down version of protests which brought down the last government and resurfaced in the capital at the weekend.

Argentina in crisis
Early in December, IMF refuses to disburse $1.3 billion aid
20 December: President de la Rua resigns after riots
23 December: Adolfo Rodriguez Saa sworn in
Fails to win support for economic reforms
30 December: Mr Rodriguez Saa resigns
But Mr Rodriguez Saa did manage to persuade the country's banks to stay open for extended hours on Monday, to allow customers to withdraw salaries and pensions.

The agreement was "a contribution to civil peace", he said, after weeks of turbulence which saw 27 people killed in riots and the resignation of Mr Rodriguez Saa's predecessor, Fernando de la Rua.

But a controversial 1,000-peso ($1,000) monthly limit on cash withdrawals remains in place.

Demonstrators have railed against the restriction and alleged corruption within Mr Rodriguez Saa's cabinet.

Many account-holders fear they will lose their savings if the currency is devalued or the government seizes money held in banks.

During his brief tenure, Mr Rodriguez Saa suspended repayments on the country's $132bn debt, announced plans to create one million jobs and promised to introduce a new currency, the Argentino.

The BBC's Daniel Schweimler
"Just a week after taking office"
See also:

30 Dec 01 | Americas
Argentine cabinet offers to quit
21 Dec 01 | Business
Bush backs IMF austerity measures
31 Dec 01 | Americas
Argentina's toughest job
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