Athens composed as rumors fly

As speculation mounted yesterday about whether Germany will participate in a rescue package for debt-ridden Greece – and whether the International Monetary Fund might play a role in any European Union response – Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou said that he expected a «positive outcome» from a summit of EU leaders in Brussels tomorrow where the Greek crisis is expected to top the agenda. Refusing to entertain «hypothetical scenarios» regarding the kind of aid Greece might be offered, Papaconstantinou told a conference in Athens organized by the International Herald Tribune that he was cautiously optimistic. «We are not going there to beg, under any circumstances,» Papaconstantinou said. «Greece wants a European solution, under eurozone rules,» he said. «There must be a political mechanism to ensure the stability of the eurozone and support the efforts made by every country,» he added. Some reports in the foreign press suggested that Germany was inching toward joining a support package for Greece but with tougher budget discipline rules and the likely involvement of the IMF. Under such constraints, Greece would be unable to access credit markets and EU countries would have to negotiate «additional instruments.» Other reports claimed that German and French diplomats had agreed to back an IMF solution for Greece. Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told a German radio station that his country was «very reticent» about joining a rescue plan. «I have the impression that the Greek side knows that it must press ahead with its reforms,» he said. The tensions that have strained Greek-German ties in recent weeks surfaced briefly at the IHT conference. Former Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou described Germany’s stance toward Greece and its debt problems as «aggressive,» a description Germany’s Ambassador to Greece Wolfgang Schultheiss took issue with. Meanwhile European Commission officials were trying to appease all sides ahead of tomorrow’s crucial summit in Brussels. In an interview with the Financial Times, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he was confident of getting the Germans behind a deal. «I know Chancellor [Angela] Merkel. She is a committed European and I have no doubts that she will, if needed, be in favor of providing financial assistance to Greece,» he said. In a related development EU President Herman Van Rompuy was said to be planning a mini-summit of eurozone leaders «just before» the Brussels summit.

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