Arab Today, arab today greece fights for place in eurozone
Last Updated : GMT 21:01:57
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Greece fights for place in eurozone

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Arab Today, arab today Greece fights for place in eurozone

Athens - AFP

Greece fought on Wednesday to stay in the eurozone, faced with an ultimatum over a debt bailout while its finance minister issued dire warnings that people were playing with fire. Evidence that Athens was fighting for its place in the 17-nation euro bloc was reinforced by a German warning that Greece could become a "bottomless pit." A separate alarm that Greece could be cast adrift despite huge budget cuts came from Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos. Speaking after the Eurogroup of eurozone ministers hammered home their conditions for a bailout, and after weekend rioting in Athens, he revealed the extent of the pressure from the country's neighbours. "We have to tell the Greek people the truth ... There are several (eurozone countries) who no longer want us," Venizelos said. In a reference to fires that gutted neo-classical buildings in Athens on Sunday, and implicitly to an increasingly hard line from northern European creditors, he warned those who "play with fire, both abroad and inside (the country), some with torches, others with matches." Eurogroup ministers held a teleconference call Wednesday to assess Greece's readiness for a new bailout. They would focus on taking an "inventory of what Greece has delivered, and checking if it is enough" to launch a part of the long-planned bailout, a bond swap to cut Greek debt held by private investors, a eurozone finance official said. In Germany, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told SWR radio: "We can help but we are not going to pour money into a bottomless pit." Analysts have now begun to ask whether a country could leave the eurozone but remain within the 27-member European Union. There are no provisions to leave the eurozone and treaties do not detail procedures for leaving the EU, although this eventuality is allowed for in the Lisbon Treaty. At the European parliament, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said blame for the situation in Greece should be shared by all, including France and Germany which also flouted EU rules. Monti said Greece was now being treated with exaggerated toughness, but noted that "policies conducted in Greece over several years were a perfect catalogue of the worst practices in Europe." Eurozone finance ministers downgraded a planned Wednesday meeting to a conference call after Athens failed to deliver details on key conditions for approving a second rescue of 130 billion euros ($173 billion) that is to be tied to a 100-billion-euro debt write-off by private banks. The eurozone wants Greece to cut an extra 325 million euros from its budget, and give written pledges from politicians who face a snap vote in April that whoever wins the election will enact budget reforms. Greece's government coalition party leaders sent those letters on Wednesday, their parties said. In his letter, conservative leader Antonis Samaras, who is tipped to win the elections, said his party would "remain committed to the objectives, targets and key policies" described in the economic recovery programme agreed with the EU, International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank. The so-called troika wants Greece's debt level to be brought down 120 percent of national output -- roughly the current level of Italian debt -- by 2020. But the window to reach a deal is closing because the complex process of debt restructuring will take time and Greece must redeem nearly 14.5 billion euros of debt on March 20. Greek lawmakers approved 3.2 billion euros in budget cuts on Sunday despite riots outside parliament, meeting most of the troika's fiscal requirements, but eurozone ministers are fed up with unfulfilled promises over the last two years and now want a total commitment. Meanwhile, new data showed the eurozone edging closer to recession with a 0.3 percent drop in output at the end of 2011. The bloc got a boost however from China's top central banker, who said Beijing would continue to buy eurozone debt to help resolve the eurozone crisis, which is hitting demand for its exports

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