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ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece on Monday picked a local theater director to curate its most renowned annual summer arts festival after Belgian artist Jan Fabre quit following protests from artists that his plans excluded Greek works.
Fabre resigned on April 2, complaining of a "hostile artistic environment" only days after giving a news conference where he said the festival in 2016 would be devoted to Belgium.
The next two years would have focused on artists who cooperated with Fabre, while Greek artists would have made up one third of the lineup.
The 61-year-old festival, which has featured iconic figures from Maria Callas to Dame Margot Fonteyn alongside ancient Greek drama, runs from June to the end of August and is held mainly in Athens, and the ancient theater of Epidaurus in the Peloponnese.
Fabre's program, which would have focused on the "Belgian Spirit", was met with howls of protest from performing artists, and parties across the political spectrum who said the festival was Greek and should include Greek works.
Greek artists signed a petition demanding that he and Culture Minister Aristeidis Baltas resign.
In his resignation letter, Fabre said he accepted the job because he would make artistic choices freely.
"This does not seem possible in Greece," he said according to a culture ministry statement. "I don't want to work in a hostile artistic environment, to which I came with an open mind and heart"
When Fabre announced his lineup on March 29, he said: "I want to do a tribute to Belgium...because this small country is my home and my sanctuary."
On Monday, the culture ministry said 63-year old Greek actor turned director Vangelis Theodoropoulos would take the post.
"The new artistic director's task is tough, but we are certain that the director will cooperate constructively with the board of the Greek Festival as well as the Greek artists for the result to be the best possible in the current circumstances," the ministry said in a statement.
Editing by Michele Kambas/Mark Heinrich