Greece bought back some 31.9 billion euros (41.41 billion U.S. dollars) of its bonds at a heavy discount to their face value on Wednesday, lightening the recession-hit country\'s crushing debt load. The positive outcome allowed Athens to unlock the next tranche of rescue loans from European Union and International Monetary Fund creditors in the coming days. The deadline for bondholders to respond to the offer made by the government ended on Dec. 11. Under the voluntary debt buyback scheme, bonds are swapped with European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) bonds of longer maturities with less face value, shaving some 20 billion euros off Greece\'s debt. This is the second time in nine months private bondholders participated in a voluntary writedown of part of their Greek debt holdings. In March, Greece was given a 100 billion euros writedown. A Euro Group meeting in Brussels on Thursday is expected to give the green light for the debt buyback scheme and the release of the next 34.4 billion euros of bailout aid to Athens. Greece has been kept solvent by multi-billion-euro aid packages by international lenders since 2010 in exchange for reigning in public spending, implementing reform and increasing competitiveness.