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Greece Optimistic About IMF, EU Loan Package

The Greek debt crisis remained a key topic on the sidelines of world economic talks of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington. The head of the IMF and Greece's finance minister expressed confidence that negotiations over a massive emergency loan package for the country would end soon.

Speaking at a news conference at IMF headquarters, Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said negotiations to secure $60-billion in loans from European governments and the International Monetary Fund are going well.

He expressed confidence that Greece could meet its deadlines for loan payments coming due in mid-May and that talks would conclude as soon as possible. "I think early May is a good ball-park figure. I do not want to give a particular date. We all know that these negotiations take weeks. We are working very fast," he said.

Papaconstantinou said the loan package framework has strong conditions, to help assure its European and IMF lenders, as well as fiscal measures to reassure Greek citizens efforts are being made to end the country's financial crisis.

The finance minister downplayed concerns that some European Union members were not fully supportive of the loan package and quickly shot down a question about what Greece might do if the loan was not approved by May. "There is no if. The support mechanism will be ready during the month of May. And there is absolutely no one in Europe or outside it that has a different opinion to this," he said.

In an interview published in a mass-circulation German newspaper (Bild am Sonntag), German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble was quoted as saying that the final decision on the package could either be positive or negative.

Germany could be one of the biggest contributors to the Greek bail-out plan. Greece has accumulated more than $400-billion in public debt.

The country is seeking emergency loans of about $40-billion from European countries and an additional sum of more than $13-billion from the IMF.

In a statement, IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said everyone trying to help Greece understands the "need for speed."

Officials in Europe and the IMF have made it clear to Greece that their support is contingent on efforts by the country to put its fiscal house in order.

Greece has agreed to begin an austerity program that cuts civil servants' pay, freezes pensions and raises taxes. That program has triggered massive street protests and labor strikes in Greece.

During the past few days of the spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank in Washington, the 186 countries that own the World Bank Group have endorsed a boost in its capital by more than $86-billion. They also agreed to give developing countries more voting rights, increasing the voting power of developing and transition countries by a little more than three percentage points.

A World Bank said the "historic changes" will also help position the poverty fighting institution to help what it called a "transformed world" as it emerges from the global economic crisis.