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Jean-Claude Juncker: Eurozone Not Ready to Unlock Greek Bailout

Jean-Claude Juncker
Eurozone finance ministers warned Greece on Thursday that they are not yet ready to unlock a new debt bailout despite an agreement between Greek political leaders on new austerity cuts.
Luxembourg prime minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, arriving to chair Brussels talks among the 17 governments in the Eurogroup, said there were too many “points to clear up” for Greece to get the go-ahead for the money it needs.
“I do not have reasons to believe that there will be a definitive deal this evening,” Juncker said, hours after Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos announced that the coalition political parties in Athens had agreed new harsh spending cuts in the hope of unlocking a second bailout.
“If it’s not tonight, it will be done next week,” Juncker said, noting “enormous progress” on various fronts.
He said ministers had to “examine in detail the different strands on the table.”
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble stated that “there will not be a result” at the Thursday evening talks.
“We’re not there,” he said as reporters pressed him to give an indication whether a 130-billion-euro second bailout could be agreed.
For Schaeuble, the meeting was a chance for ministers “to make clear to Greece and the partners in the negotiations what are the conditions for a second agreement with Greece.”
Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos called on his counterparts to endorse the bailout as he arrived for the talks.
He said Athens had reached a deal with EU and IMF officials on a “new, strong and credible programme” of cuts as well as an agreement with private creditors on the “basic parameters” of a debt writedown.
“We need now the political endorsement of the Eurogroup for the final step,” Venizelos told reporters as he arrived for the talks.
IMF chief Christine Lagarde said there was more work to do but that the agreement in Athens was a “really positive start to the evening.”
“There are clearly some very encouraging news coming out of Athens,” Lagarde said. “After the very heavy duty work that has been done lately, I think it is positive.”
Greece has run up total debt of about 350 billion euros, roughly 160 percent of its gross domestic product, and the IMF wants that brought down to a maximum of 120 percent in 2020 in order for a further bailout to go ahead.
Private creditors have negotiated with Greece an exchange of bonds aimed at saving Greece at least 100 billion euros.
The bond exchange though will take several weeks to perform, raising concerns whether it can completed before Greece faces 14.5 billion euros in payments due on March 20.
(source: AFP)

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