Eurozone debt crisis summit eyed in days
(BRUSSELS) - Eurozone officials are scrambling to resolve divisions over a new bailout for Greece and lay the ground work for a debt crisis summit that may take place as soon as Monday, officials said Thursday.
Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme noted during a session of parliament the possibility of a "decision in the coming days during meetings of heads of state and government."
In Athens, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou told a cabinet meeting that the next few days will be "particularly crucial" for the future of Greece and the eurozone.
"We are going to face up to the challenges and to the negotiations while keeping cool but also being alert," he said.
And in Rome, Greece's private creditors met for the third time in less than a month with European officials amid efforts to involve banks, insurers and pension funds in the new bailout.
European Union President Herman Van Rompuy had sought to convene an emergency meeting of the eurozone's 17 leaders on Friday in a bid to resolve a deep rift over a second bailout of Greece.
But Germany suggested it was too soon to hold a meeting when governments were still working out the details of the new rescue plan.
"The pre-condition for such a summit meeting would be that we would be in a position to take a decision and finalise the programme on Greece," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a visit to Nigeria.
"But you know that everyone is busy working to ensure that that happens. The finance ministers have made it clear that we are trying to do this as quickly as possible," she added.
European Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen said "intensive" discussions were ongoing to agree on a meeting.
"Such meetings are part of the discussions, which are ongoing, and they will take place when the time is right," she told a news briefing.
The uncertainty over the new Greek bailout has caused the debt crisis to spill over to Spain and Italy, which have seen their borrowing costs soar to record high levels.
Eurozone finance ministers have tasked their treasury directors with finding common ground on the new Greek rescue plan, which has stalled because of deep division over the private sector's possible participation.
Germany, Finland and the Netherlands insist that bankers, insurers and pension funds should share the pain in the next bailout, even at the cost of allowing Greece to default on its massive debt.
The European Central Bank and several eurozone nations object strongly to letting Athens default given the repercussions that could have.
Belgian Finance Minister said the participation of the private sector "is difficult to materialise (but) ... in the next hours, in the next few days we will strive to craft a real programme for Greece."
He added: "We are finalising this exercise."
With little chance of hammering out a deal by Friday, officials decided to delay the mooted summit, which a diplomat said could take place on Monday depending on the progress of negotiations.
"Most likely, the meeting will take place at the beginning of next week," the diplomat told AFP.
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