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Greece 'a step' away from twin debt deals

By Derek Gatopoulos

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 31 2012 9:56 a.m. MST

A homeless man sleeps outside Monastiraki metro station in Athens, with temperatures falling to below zero degrees Celsius around the country, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. The country's national debt exceeded euro 350 billion last year, and without the bond-swap deal would not be considered sustainable as Greek gross domestic product is set to slow to euro 215 billion in 2012, in a fourth year of recession, according to state budget figures. The banner reads ''Ministry of Environment, Town Planning and Public Works.''

Thanassis Stavrakis, Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece — Greece says it has all but concluded a crucial deal to write off half its privately-held debt.

Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos told a new conference Tuesday that "We are one step — I would say it is a formality— away from finalizing" the debt relief agreement. It would see private creditors swap their Greek bonds for new ones of a lower value, longer repayment period on lower interest rate.

Venizelos says his Greece is now focusing on completing negotiations by the end of the week on a new program of cutbacks until 2015 — without which Greece's bailout lifeline will be cut.

He hopes finance eurozone ministers can sign off on the new cuts — and a new bailout — during their meeting next Monday in Brussels.

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