Samaras accuses ministers of dirty dealing

Nov. 22, 2012 at 2:30 AM
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BRUSSELS, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras accused eurozone finance ministers and other officials of dirty dealing in refusing to unlock long-delayed emergency aid.

"Greece did what it had to do and what it had pledged to do. Our partners, and the IMF, must now assume their responsibilities," Samaras said before flying to an EU leaders summit in Brussels to begin Thursday.

A nearly 12-hour meeting between eurozone ministers and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde broke up Wednesday without agreement on releasing a $40.5 billion bailout installment -- delayed multiple times since June -- or on a plan to reduce Greece's runaway debt.

Athens says it needs the money by next month.

Greece's debt is expected to peak at 190 percent of gross domestic product next year. Without any debt relief it is forecast to hit 144 percent of GDP in 2020 and 133 percent in 2022.

The IMF insists Greece cut its debt to 120 percent of GDP by 2010.

Germany, one of Greece's biggest creditors, is at loggerheads with the IMF over how much extra financing to provide in the next four years, The New York Times reported. Berlin also objects to suffering losses on official loans to Greece, the Financial Times reported.

Samaras reminded the IMF, Germany and Greece's other eurozone partners Athens had carried out a series of deeply unpopular reforms, including a $17.3 billion austerity package Nov. 8, in return for the promised bailout assistance.

Greek officials had expressed hope the finance ministers would at least draw up a timetable for the desperately needed disbursement Wednesday.

That disbursement, if approved, is likely to rise to $57.3 billion because two additional installments are due under the bailout program by the end of the year, officials said.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said he was confident an agreement could be reached once "technical questions" were clarified.

An angry Samaras said, "Whatever the technical difficulties involved in finding a solution, they do not justify any negligence or delay."

It was not clear if Samaras would raise the Greek issue at Thursday's EU leaders summit, which is dedicated to agreeing on a 2014-2020 budget for Europe's 27-member economic and political union, I Kathimerini reported Thursday.

But he would have opportunities for one-on-one discussions with other leaders at the meeting's sidelines, the Greek newspaper said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, scheduled to be at the Brussels meeting, said Wednesday she thought a deal could possibly be reached Monday, when eurozone ministers are next scheduled to meet.

"One doesn't know for sure, but there are chances to get a solution," she told the German Parliament.

Merkel is widely reported wanting to avoid announcing losses on German loans or big new financing commitments to Greece ahead of her re-election campaign next year.

If the lenders agree on a deal for Greece, the measure must still be debated and passed by German lawmakers.

Schaeuble said if an agreement was reached Monday, Germany's Parliament could vote on it by the end the week.

The holdup prompted Greek left-wing politician Alexis Tsipras, head of the opposition Syriza party, which is leading in opinion polls, to renew criticism of Samaras.

"Samaras has become an integral part of the pre-election campaign of Ms. Merkel, who does not want to admit to the German people before German elections that she has made serious mistakes, that she is to blame for the oncoming recession and that a haircut is necessary for Greece's debt," Tsipras said in a statement.

French President Francois Hollande, pushing for a deal to dispel "doubts about the integrity of the eurozone," was quoted by the Financial Times as saying: "Everyone has their domestic political issues. I respect that. But there is a higher interest."

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