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Venizelos Says Today’s Aid Assessment ‘Very Positive’

Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos called the assessment of the country’s eligibility for a second aid package “very positive” and said the spotlight is now on the planned debt swap with private creditors.

“It’s been a while since the Greek people heard good words,” Venizelos told reporters today in Brussels after a meeting with euro-area counterparts. “Today they heard a good word.”

The progress toward a rescue slated to include 130 billion euros ($173 billion) in new public funds and a 70 percent loss for private holders of Greek debt justifies Greece’s effort to meet budget-austerity conditions for receiving the aid, according to Venizelos.

He also said today’s success for Greece, which has missed fiscal targets tied to an initial rescue of 110 billion euros in May 2010 and faced the prospect of having to exit the euro area, shows the country’s future must be with the European single currency.

“Any other proposal creates insecurity, uncertainty and can lead to tragic situations,” Venizelos said. “Today is an important day. But it’s not a day that should lead us to think wrongly that the effort has ended. The effort must go on.”

Debt Burden

He said euro-area finance ministers plan to hold a conference call on March 9 to assess progress on the voluntary bond swap, which is meant to help cut Greece’s debt burden to around 120 percent of gross domestic product in 2020 from 160 percent of GDP last year.

“We need to have the biggest possible participation,” Venizelos said. “We need to have, if possible, universal participation.”

Private creditors have strong reasons to take part in the debt swap, he said, citing incentives including a cash sweetener.

“The offer that Greece has made with the approval of the eurogroup is very enticing,” Venizelos said. “This is the best offer that can exist.”

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