European leaders discuss Greek finance crisis

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ATHENS (AP) — Greece is an “integral” part of the eurozone, the leaders of Greece, France and Germany said in an emergency teleconference Wednesday night that aimed to calm markets and temper talk of an imminent default by Greece.

Fears that Greece was heading rapidly toward a chaotic default — and the idea that it potentially would leave the euro and return to its own currency — have roiled markets for days, both across the 17-nation eurozone and globally.

“In the face of the extensive rumors of the last few days, it was stressed by all that Greece is an integral part of the eurozone,” Greek government spokesman Elias Mossialos said after the discussion between Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In Germany, Mrs. Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said the chancellor and the French president stressed the significance for the Greek economy of “the strict and effective implementation” of the international bailout for the debt-ridden country. Athens must stick to specific fiscal targets and pass specific reforms, including a large privatization drive, in order to keep receiving bailout funds that are keeping it financially afloat.

“This is the precondition for the payment of future tranches of the program,” Mr. Seibert’s statement noted.

Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy “are convinced that the future of Greece is in the eurozone,” he said. “The success of Greece’s adjustment will strengthen the stability of the eurozone.”

Mr. Mossialos said his country was “determined to meet all its commitments to its partners, so ensuring the full implementation of the support program.”

He said that new austerity measures announced in recent days, including a new property tax, will ensure that Greece achieves its fiscal targets this year and next year and will lead to the country posting primary growth. Greece currently is posting a primary deficit, which means it is spending more than it makes even before interest rates on outstanding debt is taken into account.

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