- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 11, 2001

BUENOS AIRES (Agence France-Presse) President Fernando de la Rua called yesterday for a "patriotic accord" to help bring Argentina out of its 43-month-old economic crisis and avert a full-blown financial collapse.

With fears of a collapse growing, Argentine officials worked on details of a plan to cut tax breaks by about $4 billion to help meet conditions for further International Monetary Fund (IMF) aid.

Mr. de la Rua, during a visit to Mendoza province, told reporters the government was prepared to take "the necessary steps" to avert a default on debt payments later this month that could deepen the crisis.

But the Argentine leader said a number of sacrifices would be needed as the government takes further austerity measures to meet budget targets in order to obtain additional aid from the IMF and other multilateral lenders.

"I have called for an accord among all sectors, and everyone agrees that we need a patriotic accord, without stinginess, without partisanship, thinking of the interest of all Argentines," he said.

Mr. de la Rua said Argentina is entering "a critical period" that will require "a joint effort to untangle ourselves [from the crisis] without our own resources and deal with the nation's obligations."

"We must make decisions, sometimes heroic decisions … and this is why I call for patriotism to be the basis for the [effort] rather than selfishness."

Mr. de la Rua also expressed confidence in Economy Minister Domingo Cavallo, saying he would remain in his job because "we cannot allow destabilization, creating uncertainty and a lack of confidence."

Mr. Cavallo said Sunday the government is seeking to reduce by $4 billion its $7.5 billion to $8 billion tax-incentives package granted to the private sector under Argentina's competitiveness program to a total of $4.5 billion.

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