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Merkel optimistic Greek deal can be agreed Monday
Leaders of Germany, Greece and Italy optimistic a Greek bailout deal will be agreed next week
By The Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) ' The leaders of Germany, Italy and Greece are "optimistic" that a deal on a second massive bailout for Athens can be clinched next week, a spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday.

Agreement on a second, euro130 billion ($170 billion) bailout has been delayed for months due to doubts over Greek political leaders' commitment to tough new austerity measures as well as the worsening economic situation in the country that kicked off Europe's debt crisis two years ago.

The statement from Merkel's spokesman is the strongest indication yet that finance ministers from the 17 euro countries can decide on the new rescue at their Brussels meeting on Monday.

"The three leaders are optimistic that the finance ministers can find a solution to the pending questions at the Eurogroup on Monday and thereby contribute to the stabilization of Greece," Steffen Seibert said in a statement, after Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and Greece's Premier Lucas Papademos held a conference call earlier Friday.

The three leaders discussed the second rescue package as well as the latest developments in the wider eurozone, Seibert said.

Greece is under big pressure to get the green light on the bailout so it can move ahead with a related euro100 billion ($130 billion) debt-relief deal with private bondholders that till take several weeks to implement. That deal has to be completed before March 20, when Athens faces a euro14.5 billion bond redemption it cannot afford.

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