Emergency loan talks begin

Talks between government officials and representatives of the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank began in Athens yesterday as Greece tries to negotiate a better deal for the emergency loans that it appears set to call on. The talks are due to last a couple of weeks, at the end of which the final details of the agreement for Greece to be able to draw 45 billion euros in loans from the IMF and its eurozone partners will be unveiled. «By May 15, a joint text will be drafted by Greece, the IMF and the EU which will serve as a point of reference should the aid mechanism be activated,» Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou said yesterday. The discussions are focusing on exactly how the mechanism will work and what economic policies Greece will have to commit to over the next three years. But with the interest rate that investors are demanding to hold Greece debt rising to new record levels, above 8 percent, the successful conclusion of the negotiations is becoming a matter of urgency for the government. However, one of the subjects that Greece wants to discuss is the interest rate at which the emergency loans will be made available. It has been suggested that Athens will be charged a fixed rate of about 5 percent over the next three years for the cash injection. But the government wants to try and bring this rate down. «The negotiations are based on a specific framework, we are not just negotiating the interest rate,» government spokesman Giorgos Petalotis told journalists. «You will excuse me for not getting into details but we will announce details when they become available.» Meanwhile, the leader of the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), Alexis Tsipras, yesterday called for the government to hold a referendum so that voters can decide whether the country should call on the emergency loan mechanism. SYRIZA, like New Democracy, is against the involvement of the IMF in the rescue package.

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