* PM says dark period for Greece ended
* Opposition remains unconvinced
* Deal eases immediate risk of euro exit - Fitch
By Harry Papachristou and Karolina Tagaris
ATHENS, Nov 27 Prime Minister Antonis Samaras
welcomed a debt deal agreed by lenders to unlock aid, promising
sceptical Greeks a new dawn after months of haggling under the
threat of bankruptcy.
Worn down by political squabbling and repeated austerity
cuts, many Greeks reacted to the deal with disdain while the
Syriza opposition party called it a "half-baked compromise" that
would not solve the country's problems.
"A very grey, a very dark period for Greece officially ended
yesterday and it has ended for good," Samaras said in a
televised statement. "We Greeks were made for tough times, and
when the going gets tough, it brings out the best in us."
After 12 hours of talks at their third meeting in as many
weeks, euro zone finance ministers and the International
Monetary Fund agreed to reduce Greek debt by 40 billion euros
($52 billion), opening the way for 43.7 billion euros of loans
to be disbursed by early 2013.
Only a 10 percent of that sum is destined to paying interest
on loans and the government plans to spend about 7 billion euros
paying off arrears to suppliers, Samaras said.
Greeks inured to years of bitter talks over the country's
fate and repeated rounds of spending cuts that have driven up
unemployment and slashed living standards were not impressed.
"So what?" asked Nikos Kamoudis, 60, a shoe repairman in
central Athens whose business has suffered from the recession.
"At the end of the day if you have no money in your pocket
to feed your family and pay your bills, it doesn't matter what
decisions they take up there."
A poll published on Monday before the deal showed 84 percent
of Greeks felt uncertainty would persist even with the disbursal
of money and only 10 percent thought it would save the country.
Greece's main stock market index closed up 0.3
percent but bank stocks tumbled nearly 10 percent on
fears that a debt buyback plan might further erode their
"The positive side is that we've been given some oxygen to
continue breathing for a period of time and finally see a stop
to this haggling on getting and not getting the tranche," said
Takis Zamanis, chief trader at Beta Securities.
"On the other hand, concerns remain on how the buyback will
proceed and under what terms. It seems the banks are worse off."
A senior government official played down those concerns,
saying the banks held Greek debt at their actual rather than
nominal value, shielding them from losses from the buyback.
Athens also appointed a banker, Stelios Papadopoulos, to
fill the vacant post of the chief of its debt agency that will
manage the buyback.
Ratings agency Fitch said the deal eased the immediate
threat of a Greek default or euro zone exit. But it warned that
risks remained and it was unclear whether the deal could
sufficiently boost consumer and investor confidence.
As part of the deal, ministers committed to taking further
steps to lower Greece's debt to "significantly below 110
percent" in 2022 - a veiled acknowledgement that some write-off
of loans may be necessary in 2016.
EU Economic and Monetary Affairs commissioner Olli Rehn also
reiterated that pledge as a sign of the euro zone's commitment
to resolving Greece's debt crisis definitively.
"Euro area member states are ready to consider further
measures of debt reduction" to get Greek debt to less than 110
percent of GDP if the country fulfilled its commitments, he told
the Kathimerini newspaper.
"These are very important decisions and they are as clear as
they can be from the euro zone point of view," he said.
After months of infighting over unpopular austerity measures
that the government was forced to pass to appease lenders, all
three parties in Samaras's coalition government cheered the
"This is the new start the country needs after nine months
of waiting," said Evangelos Venizelos, leader of the co-ruling
PASOK Socialists. "Now it's up to us to make it work."
The other junior coalition partner, the Democratic Left,
called the deal "a decisive step" to keep Greece in the euro.
Greece's anti-bailout opposition dismissed the agreement
altogether, saying it fell short of what was needed.
"It's a half-baked compromise, a band aid on the gaping
wound of (Greece's) debt," said Dimitris Papadimoulis, senior
lawmaker of the radical leftist Syriza, the biggest opposition
party, which is leading in the polls.
Papadimoulis said German Chancellor Angela Merkel was
standing in the way of a 50 percent write-off of Greece's
340-billion-euro debt, saying that was what Athens needed.
"(The deal happened) under pressure from the narrow-minded,
egotistical, short-sighted economic policies of Merkel, who
stingily watches over her money," he said.