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Greece to get bailout but issues remain: officials

BRUSSELS -- Eurozone governments will likely approve on Monday a long-elusive rescue package for Greece, saving it from a potentially calamitous bankruptcy next month, senior officials said.

But finance ministers meeting in Brussels will have a few last issues to wrangle over, such as tighter controls over Greece's spending and further cuts to the country's debt load.

Greece needs to secure the 130-billion-euro (US$170 billion) bailout quickly so it can move ahead with a related 100-billion-euro (US$130 billion) debt relief deal with private investors, which needs to be in place quickly if Athens is to avoid defaulting on a bond repayment on March 20.

French Finance Ministers Francois Baroin told Europe-1 radio that while details will have to be worked out, “the political commitments have been made” for the bailout package, Greece's second in two years.

“We now have all the elements of a deal — elements of a participation that remains voluntary for banks and private lenders, and for public lenders states, central banks,” Baroin said.

He is traveling to Brussels to meet his counterparts from the 16 other euro countries, as well as representatives for the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and private holders of Greek debt.

Greece's Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos, who arrived in Brussels Sunday night, said he was also optimistic that the new aid program could be agreed.

“Greece comes into today's Eurogroup meeting having fulfilled all the requirements for the approval of the new program,” he said. “For Greeks, this is a matter of national dignity and a national strategic choice and no other integrated and responsible choice can be opposed to it.”

 The Greek parliament has faced down violent protests in Athens and nationwide strikes to approve the austerity and reform measures demanded by the eurozone. Its main political leaders have committed in writing to uphold the bailout terms even after general elections in April.

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