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Thursday, 23 April, 1998, 07:19 GMT 08:19 UK
Obituary: Konstantine Karamanlis
Konstantine Karamanlis
Former Greek President Konstantine Karamanlis declares the 1974 opening of Parliament in Athens
The former Greek president, Konstantine Karamanlis, who presided over the restoration of democracy in Greece after 1974, has died.

Mr Karamanlis, who returned to power after the fall of the military junta in Athens in the 1970s, was taken to hospital in Athens earlier this month with a respiratory infection and later suffered heart complications. He was 91.

One of Europe's most revered politicians, Karamanlis, a conservative patriarch, not only oversaw the re-introduction of democracy, but also carved out a niche for Greece in the West by engineering its entry into the European Community in 1981.

Both events were to mark him as one of Greece's most important leaders of all time - few of the country's politicians have ever achieved so much.

The son of a northern Greek schoolmaster, Mr Karamanlis went into politics after studying law at Athens University.

In a career spanning six decades, he was to post more records than any other politician this century.

In 1955, he became the youngest premier ever, going on to be re-elected as prime minister on five subsequent occasions.

After deciding to opt out of active politics at the age of 73, Mr Karamanlis was elevated to the presidency of the republic twice. Indeed, such was the reverence with which Konstantine Karamanlis was seen, that even opponents described him as the god of Greek politics.

Although the late leader did not make any public appearances after retiring from public life in 1996, Greek politicians of every persuasion regularly turned to him for advice. Often, his colleagues and countrymen would then spend days deciphering and debating the great man's cryptic sayings.

Konstantine Karamanlis will be best remembered for his modernising zeal and determination to forge ahead with reforms.

But few Greeks would disagree that his finest hour came in 1974 when, on returning from self-imposed exile in France, he commanded Greece's transition into a fully-fledged democracy upon the collapse of the hated seven-year military regime.

See also:

22 Apr 98 | Europe
Karamanlis dead
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