German foreign minister: Greece could get more time to cut debt
BERLIN (Reuters) - German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle signaled on Sunday that Greece could get small concessions from the euro zone over its painful bailout programme but nothing like a full renegotiation.
Speaking after exit polls showed Greece's election was too close to call, with the conservative New Democracy party barely ahead of radical leftist SYRIZA, Westerwelle said a 130 billion euro bailout package could not be torn up but more time could be granted to meet its terms.
"There can't be substantial changes to the agreements but I can imagine that we would talk about the time axes once again, given that in reality there was political standstill in Greece because of the elections, which the normal citizens shouldn't have to suffer from," Westerwelle said on German TV station ARD.
"But there is no way out of the reforms. Greece must stick to what has been agreed. If we said to Greece, no matter what we agreed, it doesn't matter anymore, then we would get a problem with all the other European countries that are diligently and persistently implementing their reforms."
Under the current rules Greece must cut its budget deficit to below 3 percent of GDP in 2014. Antonis Samaras, leader of pro-bailout New Democracy party, has called for two years' more to meet the targets.
SYRIZA says the whole deal must be ripped up.
Spain is set to be granted an extra year to meet its deficit target, with Germany's blessing.
Euro zone officials have said the currency bloc will not rip up the main targets of Greece's bailout no matter who wins Sunday's elections, but it might consider giving a new government in Athens some leeway on how it reaches them.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Greece would have to stick to the programme.
"That's why it's so important that the Greek elections preferably lead to a result in which those that will form a future government say: 'yes, we will stick to the agreements'," Merkel said on Saturday. (Reporting by Annika Breidthardt, editing by Mike Peacock)
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