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Greek FinMin: all pending issues will be completed ahead of eurogroup conference call
ATHENS, Greece (AP) ' Greece's finance minister says all pending issues in its international creditors' requirements for the country's second bailout will be completed ahead of a Wednesday evening conference call between eurozone finance ministers.
Evangelos Venizelos said that "very few" issues remained and would be wrapped up before the call at 6p.m. Greek time (1600GMT) Wednesday.
The call is being held instead of a meeting between the ministers, which was called off Tuesday because Athens had not met all the requirements, including plugging a euro325 million ($427.99 million) financing gap and providing written guarantees from the governing coalition's party leaders.
Venizelos made the comments after a meeting with President Karolos Papoulias, who he said will give up his presidential salary to help in the crisis.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
ATHENS, Greece (AP) ' The leaders of the two parties participating in Greece's governing coalition have prepared written assurances committing to implement the terms of Greece's new bailout ' a key requirement demanded by international creditors, officials said Wednesday.
Socialist leader George Papandreou signed the letter Tuesday night, and Conservative head Antonis Samaras prepared his letter Wednesday morning and was to send it within the day, the officials said.
A meeting of eurozone finance ministers that had been expected Wednesday on Greece's second multibillion bailout was postponed. Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs the ministers' meetings, said Tuesday night that "further technical work" was needed from Athens. This included providing the written assurances and detailing how Greece will plug a euro325 million ($428 million) financing gap, he said.
Wednesday's meeting had been expected to give the green light for a bond-swap deal with private creditors designed to slice some euro100 billion ($132 billion) off Greece's debt.
The swap deal, which will take several weeks to implement, has to be finalized by March 20, when Greece faces a euro14.5 billion ($19.1 billion) bond redemption that it cannot pay.
Instead, the ministers will hold a conference call Wednesday evening, and will meet in person in Brussels next Monday.
In Athens, a government official said the issue of the euro325 million gap was expected to be resolved within the day. On Tuesday, government spokesman Pantelis Kapsis said the funds would come "from spending cuts from ministries, from areas including defense."
The bond swap deal is an integral part of Greece's second international bailout, worth euro130 billion ($171 billion) in loans, without which the country faces a default that could drag down other economically vulnerable eurozone countries and threaten Europe's single currency itself.
The country has been surviving since May 2010 on funds from a first, euro110 billion ($145 billion) package of rescue loans. But harsh austerity measures demanded in return for the emergency loans have hammered Greece's economy, leaving it in a fifth year of recession. Official figures Tuesday showed that the Greek economy shrank by 7 percent on the year in the fourth quarter of 2011.
The austerity measures, which have included repeated waves of tax hikes and cuts to salaries and pensions, have also led to an explosion of public anger, with strikes and demonstrations often turning violent.
On Sunday, rioters burned buildings in central Athens and clashed with riot police while lawmakers approved a new round of austerity, slashing the minimum wage and planning mass layoffs in the civil service as part of requirements for the second bailout.