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Greek PM declares privatisation a top priority

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(ROME) - Greek Prime Minister Georges Papandreou has said privatisation is now a top government priority aimed at convincing investors that debt-wracked Greece can respect the EU-IMF bailout terms.

"In the beginning privatisations were not a priority," the premier told Italian daily Corriere della Sera in an interview published Saturday.

"Now privatisations occupy first place on our list (of priorities). We will be able to prove that we are capable of respecting our obligations concerning the debt through a series of development projects," he said.

"There is a large consensus in both public opinion and in the opposition. That is why we will approve the privatisation plan very shortly."

Last year Athens received a 110-billion-euro ($156-billion) bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, but a severe recession, corruption and a weak tax system have complicated efforts to bring its finances in order.

Speculation has mounted in recent days that Greece will need an additional 60 billion euros over the next two years as it will not be able to return to financial markets next year as expected to refinance its massive debt.

Rumours are also swirling that Greece may need to restructure its debt as the least worst option to save the country from defaulting.

Eurozone and EU finance ministers are expected to discuss Greece at meetings on Monday and Tuesday.

"We need to continue with an unwavering will, not only to reduce the deficit... but to eliminate corruption, reduce tax evasion and build a more balanced system," said Papandreou.

Meanwhile he lashed back at recently floated proposals by some German government officials that Greece give up one of its islands or a historical monument as a warranty for a fresh loan.

"I want to say something about which we are very sensitive: to ask us for an island or a monument as a warranty is almost an insult," Papandreou told the daily.

"People expect our words and actions to be sufficient guarantees."

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