Siemens pact in touching distance

Greece is close to settling a dispute with German electronics and engineering giant Siemens over alleged bribery in the past in an agreement that could pave the way for several projects, including long-awaited Athens metro extensions, to be completed.

Deputy Transport and Infrastructure Minister Yiannis Magriotis indicated on Thursday that an outline deal had been reached and that the Cabinet was set to review the agreement soon.

?I have been informed by Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos that the final draft of the agreement is in the government?s hands and will be put before ministers for approval at the next cabinet meeting,? he said. ?This would clear the path for all the outstanding projects.?

Greece has been in negotiations with Siemens for several months with the aim of reaching an out-of-court settlement in relation to the bribes the firm?s Greek branch, Siemens Hellas, is alleged to have paid to politicians and public officials in order to secure lucrative state contracts.

Siemens has paid similar compensation in other countries where its executives operated slush funds. Magriotis did not reveal the size of the proposed compensation for Greece.

The extension of metro lines 2 and 3 had been held up since 2008 because successive governments were unwilling to sign the 45-million-euro contract with Siemens after the firm?s Greek branch was accused of paying bribes in the past to politicians and state officials to secure contracts.

The seven stations — three on Line 3 of the metro system (Peristeri, Anthoupoli and Haidari) and four on Line 2 (Ilioupoli, Alimos, Argyroupoli and Elliniko) — were due to open to the public last summer but may not even be available to commuters this year.

Attiko Metro officials said it would take about 15 months to complete the extensions from the day the signaling contract is signed.