Mon, May 19, 2003 - Page 7 News List

Argentina's new president tackles stagnant economy

AP , EL CALAFATE, ARGENTINA

President-elect Nestor Kirchner, one week away from taking office, met Saturday with advisors to discuss the direction of his new government.

Meanwhile, the country's outgoing leader, Eduardo Duhalde, urged opponents to refrain from unnecessary criticism of the new president during his first year in office as he seeks to lift Argentina from a deep economic slump.

Kirchner would have been competing with former President Carlos Menem in an election runoff yesterday, but the vote was canceled after Menem -- far behind in the polls -- pulled out of the race. In the first round, Menem just beat Kirchner by 24 percent to 22 percent.

Kirchner met with his advisors near the Glaciers Naional Park in southern Argentina. Afterward he took a boat ride on a lake in the park and said he looked forward to tackling the economic recovery.

He said he would seek to ensure the Argentine currency holds stable at about 3 pesos per dollar. The peso has been trading at just under 3 pesos in recent weeks.

"A peso at three to the dollar seems reasonable to me," said Kirchner, who nonetheless gave no hint of policies he would deploy.

He also had no comment on his Cabinet choices, though current Economic Minister Roberto Lavagna is expected to remain on when Kirchner takes office on May 25.

An announcement of the full Cabinet is expected early next week.

Kirchner has been accused by two of his first round opponents of a heavy-handed style while governor of the southern province of Santa Cruz.

Duhalde, who backed Kirchner in the race for the presidency, dismissed the criticism and said the opposition should put aside differences and rally behind the brand new government.

"The opposition should be more prudent and avoid criticism for at least this year," Duhalde said.

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