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Europe pressured to revise Irish and Greek bailouts
 Dublin/London - The European Union is under pressure to renegotiate its financial bailouts of Ireland and Greece after an Irish minister said any concessions given to Athens should mean better terms for Dublin as well.
The 110-billion-euro (96.1 billion pound) rescue of Greece, agreed in May last year, and the 85-billion-euro scheme for Ireland, put together in November, were meant to be the cornerstones of the euro zone’s response to its sovereign debt crisis.
The fact that both may now be revised, in Greece’s case perhaps radically, underlines how they so far have failed to convince markets that the problems are in hand, and suggests Europe may be on the hook to supply fresh aid for years to come.
 After a secretive meeting of top euro zone finance officials in Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of the zone’s finance ministers, said there was consensus that Greece needed a new plan.
British Finance Minister George Osborne agreed that Greece might need additional aid but said Britain, which is outside the euro zone, should not have to provide any.
He acknowledged that markets doubted Greece could meet the requirements of its current rescue plan.
“The market is quite skeptical about that happening and I suspect a lot of my time over the next few weeks is going to be with other European finance ministers talking about how we try to help the Greeks get through this situation,” he said.
Any renegotiation of the financial terms or economic targets in the Greek and Irish schemes could complicate the rescue of Portugal, which last week became the third euro zone state to agree on an EU/IMF bailout.
A revised Greek plan could include pushing further into the future the targets for Greece to cut its budget deficit, easing the terms of its emergency loans, and giving it additional money, EU official sources and analysts say.
Publicly, officials in Athens and around Europe continue to insist that restructuring the Greek government bonds held by private investors is not on the cards. But privately, officials increasingly concede that some form of restructuring — perhaps an extension of maturities on the bonds — may be inevitable.
Any restructuring of Greek bonds would fuel speculation about similar action for Ireland and Portugal. The Irish Mail on Sunday reported, quoting an unnamed senior minister in Dublin, that Ireland’s government expected the country’s debt would be restructured within the next three years.
Euro zone governments are desperate to rescue the bloc’s weakest states for fear that a chain reaction of debt defaults could savage the region’s banking system. But with taxpayers in rich countries angry about having to pay for the poor countries, it may be hard for all 17 euro zone states to agree on more generous bailout terms.
Governments in some of the smaller countries were irritated when Germany and France privately agreed among themselves last year to push through some crisis steps, and there were signs that Friday’s secretive Luxembourg meeting among a handful of countries also was resented.
Monday 2011-05-10  |  00:07:20   
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