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Euro-Area Accord on New Greek Aid May Be Delayed to July

Luxembourg's Finance Minister Luc Frieden
Luc Frieden, Luxembourg's finance minister. Photographer: Michele Tantussi/Bloomberg

Talks on a second Greek bailout may drag into July, casting doubt on a payment due early next month, as euro-area finance chiefs struggle to break a deadlock over how to enroll private investors in the rescue.

The finance ministers failed to reconcile a German-led push for bondholders to shoulder part of the cost of a new Greek aid package with European Central Bank warnings that such a move might constitute a default. With consensus elusive before the target date of a June 23-24 leaders’ summit, finance ministers will convene again on June 19 in Luxembourg, a day earlier than planned.

“We have to proceed very cautiously,” Luxembourg Finance Minister Luc Frieden told reporters after an emergency meeting in Brussels today, adding that “very clearly we have to go into that direction” of a delay to next month on a new aid package from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. “Several options -- from the IMF, as well as from the European Central Bank and from the European Commission -- still have to be studied.”

Pressure on euro-area governments to craft a rescue plan before their end-of-June goal intensified yesterday after Standard & Poor’s slapped Greece with the world’s lowest credit rating. The focus on averting the euro area’s first sovereign default now shifts to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy to resolve their differences at a June 17 meeting in Berlin.

‘No Plan B’

“They’ll find a way to make it safe, which is what the ECB and French want, and make it irrevocable and grant more time, which is what Germany wants,” said Gilles Moec, co-chief European economist at Deutsche Bank AG. “There’s no plan B. We have to come up with a solution.”

Yields on 10-year Greek bonds touched 17.46 percent today, a record in the 17-nation euro area’s history. The slump pushed the extra yield that investors demand to hold the country’s 10-year bonds instead of similar maturity German bunds to a record.

Thirteen months after Greece was granted a 110 billion-euro ($159 billion) bailout that failed to halt the spread of the debt crisis to Ireland and Portugal, politicians are at odds over fulfilling a pledge to make creditors pick up some of the cost of a second rescue.

Seven Years

ECB policy makers have warned against German proposals that maturities on Greek debt be extended for seven years, an outcome rating companies have said would be considered a default. ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet, who attended today’s meeting, said on June 9 that governments were flirting with what could be a “enormous mistake.”

Finance ministers including Elena Salgado of Spain and Didier Reynders of Belgium stressed that any decision must satisfy the ECB’s concerns. Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker, who leads the group of euro-area finance ministers, said before the meeting that “all options” will be considered regarding Greece.

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