Clinton applauds Greek austerity measures [update]

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Greece?s medium-term fiscal strategy as ?vital first steps? during meetings with Prime Minister George Papandreou and Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis on Sunday.

?We know these were not easy decisions, they were acts of leadership,? Clinton said. She said the challenge will be ?to keep moving forward with the same determination and commitment.?

?While the payoff for these sacrifices will not come quickly, it will come,? Clinton said. ?We know the price of inaction would have been far higher.?

“Americans know these are difficult days, and again we stand with you as friends and allies,» Clinton said at a news conference.

“The United States strongly supports the Papandreou government’s determination to make the necessary reforms to put Greece back on a sound financial footing and to make Greece more competitive economically.”

Clinton said Greece?s plan for public spending cuts and tax hikes was like «chemotherapy», but would bring results in the end.

“I am not here to in any way downplay the immediate challenges because they are real. But I am here to say that we believe strongly that this will give Greece a very strong economy going forward,» Clinton said.

Her visit to Greece comes ahead of an emergency eurozone summit on Thursday in Brussels, where the leaders of the 17 countries will discuss a second bailout for Athens. Lambrinidis praised the US for standing by Greece through its debt crisis.

“Friends prove themselves in difficult times and, as we know, Greece is going through a difficult time,» Lambrinidis said. «The US has stood by us in a decisive manner.”

“We believe that we shall come out of this difficulty victorious,» he said. «Many on both sides of the Atlantic have bet on the collapse of Greece and then have been proven wrong. We will continue to prove them wrong.”

Clinton is visiting Athens on the second leg of a 12-day around-the-world diplomatic tour. She came to Greece from Turkey and will travel to India, Indonesia, Hong Kong and southern mainland China before returning home on July 25.

Before ending her tour of Turkey on Saturday, Clinton offered her support to Turkish calls for a resolution of the long-running dispute between Ankara and Athens over Cyprus.

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