–Updating With Additional Quotes

By Johanna Treeck

WASHINGTON (MNI) – Greece will have no problem concluding its aid
package, proceeding with reforms and, meanwhile, has absolutely no
intention of restructuring its debt, Greek Finance Minister George
Papaconstantinou said Sunday.

In a news conference following talks with International Monetary
Fund, European Commission and European Central Bank officials and fellow
finance ministers, Papaconstantinou said that negotiations are
progressing well and should be “concluded rather soon.”

Papaconstantinou assured that Greece is on a good path to reducing
the country’s debt helped by an aggressive reform agenda and better than
expected economic developments.

He also said that the current crisis had highlighted both the
past strengthening of the Eurozone and the need to strengthen it

“We are very confident that the negotiations, which have started
even before we asked for the activation of the mechanism, will be
concluded rather soon. They are going very well,” Papaconstantinou said.

Prompted to give a more specific time frame, he said that “early
May” is a “good” estimate. “It is very clear that we want to do this as
quick as possible. … There is no ‘if,’ the support mechanism will be
ready during the month of May.”

“We have a framework, which is a three-year framework, with strong
conditionality criteria,” Papaconstantinou continued.

The program, he said, will reassure Greek citizens, European
partners, the international community and the financial markets.

“We are all confident that this will be done in time and we will
continue to be able to refinance public debt without any problem,” he

Asked whether Greece has any intention to restructure debt,
Papaconstantinou said: “Another red herring which is out there. I want
to categorically state that any notion of restructuring is off the table
for the Greek government, has never been put on the table in
negotiations and has never been part of proposals made by the IMF to

He also dismissed risks of a default. “I can see that a number of
people have been betting in particular ways. All I can say is that they
will lose their shirts,” Papaconstantinou said.

Papaconstantinou was unable to offer any insights into details of
ongoing negotiations or the total amount Greece might receive over the
three year program.

“I cannot refer to specific figure because they are part of the
negotiations and the decisions that will be taken,” he said.

However, Papaconstantinou assured that, “We are all aware that the
numbers need to reflect the situation and be enough to be able to
reassure markets of the stability and viability of the Greek economy.”

He dismissed concerns that Germany, or another Eurozone government,
may still drop out of the deal.

“We have full confidence that when the framework is completed and
the negotiations are done, what we will have is a statement of broader
framework of conditionality with financing conditions attached to which
all European partners will be able to subscribe,” Papaconstantinou said.

Papaconstantinou assured that Greece was well on track with its
reform efforts and rejected the notion that it is only seeking
short-term relief.

“Already there some very good first results [on reform efforts]. We
have opened up practically every reform agenda that we could,” he said.

“I understand that markets still need to be convinced and I think
that the kind of moves that we are making and the strong framework that
will be decided and will be co-signed by all the partners following the
negotiations will be a very important signal to the markets that what we
will have is a fully sustainable situation in terms of both deficit and
the evolution of public debt,” Papaconstantinou said.

He said that along with effort efforts economic developments will
help the government consolidate debt.

“Our data even for the first month of this year are encouraging,”
he said, that show “in terms of new orders, in terms of expectations for
retail trade, the picture is much better than what many analysts had
assumed. This seems,” he continued, “to suggest that the economy will be
able to come back to positive growth rates perhaps sooner that

Papaconstantinou once again rejected the idea of Greece leaving the
Eurozone saying that scenario “has absolutely no basis for reality.
Greece is a member of the Eurozone, will always remain a member of the
Eurozone. Full Stop.”

He also said that the current crisis had shown that the, “Eurozone
is committed to a common currency and will defend it any cost” but that
it also highlighted that mechanism need to be strengthened to avoid a

–Frankfurt newsroom, +49 720 142; jtreeck@marketnews.com

** Market News International Washington Bureau: 202-371-2121 **

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