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Germany's Schaeuble gives strong backing to Greek bailout

Picture taken on July 17, 2015 shows German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and her finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble during a debate in the Bundestag, the German lower house of parliament in Berlin. AFP PHOTO / TOBIAS SCHWARZ

BERLIN: German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Monday he had no qualms about urging fellow lawmakers to approve a new bailout for Greece in a parliamentary vote Wednesday, citing a dramatic change in the Greek government's readiness to reform.

In a robust endorsement that could help Chancellor Angela Merkel's grand coalition win broad backing for the bailout, Schaeuble said he was confident that the International Monetary Fund, whose imprimatur many lawmakers see as guaranteeing rigorous implementation of budgetary and reform targets, would take part.

Schaeuble argued last month that Greece should consider a "timeout" from the euro zone, drawing criticism from some euro zone partners and solidifying his credentials among bailout skeptics in his party as an opponent of leniency.

"I can argue with full conviction, partly because I haven't taken this decision lightly myself ... that the right thing to do is to vote for this," Schaeuble said in an interview with the German public broadcaster ZDF.

Schaeuble called existing loan terms to Greece "very generous." He said steps could be taken to reassure the IMF on the sustainability of Greece's debts and ensure its involvement.

"I am very sure that we will come to a common assessment and I am also sure that the IMF, whose role we have described as indispensable, will take part in this program."

Asked if a Greek exit from the euro was now off the table, Schaeuble said this was up to Greece.

"If Greece does everything that we have agreed, then this program is designed over the next three years to bring Greece back onto a sustainable path," he said. "Greece should then be able to fund itself on the financial markets without guarantees from the European rescue fund."

Earlier, sources involved in party talks told Reuters that conservative lawmakers largely supported the new bailout plan but that top party officials wanted to be sure the IMF would take part - something that Merkel tried to reassure them of Sunday.

The Bundestag is due to vote on the 86 billion euro ($95 billion) aid package on Wednesday.

Germany's approval of the deal is not in doubt because of the support of parties such as the Social Democrats, Merkel's junior coalition partner, and the opposition Greens.

But a rebellion by a large number of lawmakers from her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), would be a blow to her authority.

Last month, a record 65 lawmakers from Merkel's conservative camp broke ranks and refused to back negotiations on the bailout. The daily Bild estimated that up to 120 CDU and CSU members out of 311 might refuse to back the deal now agreed.

 

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