Euro zone ministers to meet on Greece without Italy's Monti

BRUSSELS Thu Feb 9, 2012 5:51am EST

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The finance ministers of Italy and Cyprus will not attend a euro zone meeting on Thursday, officials said ahead of the gathering called to examine a financial aid package for Greece, while the arrival of Austria's Maria Fekter also appeared unlikely.

The meeting, which was announced at short notice on Wednesday evening, had been expected to finalize a second rescue program for Greece but the failure so far of Greek political leaders to agree on reforms and austerity measures may prevent a deal.

Italy's Mario Monti, the country's prime minister who is also acting economy and finance minister, is visiting Washington and will have to skip the Brussels meeting, a spokesman for Italy's permanent representation to the EU said.

His deputy, Vittorio Grilli, is travelling with him. A spokesman for the Italian treasury said it was very likely Carlo Monticelli, secretary for the economy ministry in charge of international affairs, would take his place at the Eurogroup.

Kikis Kazamias, the finance minister for Cyprus, will also not be able to go to the Brussels meeting, a spokesman for the country's permanent representation to the EU said.

Austrian Finance Minister Maria Fekter, who is involved in talks over a program of spending cuts and tax increases in Vienna, is also unlikely to attend, an official familiar with the situation said.

"There is a very slight chance that she is going, but probably not," the source said.

Greek leaders failed early on Thursday to agree on reforms and austerity measures, the price of a bailout to avoid a messy default, meaning Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos would head off to meet his country's financial backers in Brussels with an incomplete deal.

Greece's partners in the euro zone and the International Monetary Fund are increasingly exasperated by a lack of agreement on the measures they demand in return for a 130 billion euro bailout and time is running out for Athens before a major March 20 bond repayment.

(Reporting by Luke Baker in Brussels, Michael Shields in Vienna and Francesca Landini in Milan; Writing By John O'Donnell; editing by Rex Merrifield)

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