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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Greece will need debt relief for its public finances and economic future to become sustainable, the chairman of euro zone finance ministers Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Thursday, promising a deal between Athens and its lenders in May.
His remarks are a departure from the line taken by euro zone finance ministers until now, that debt relief would be discussed, but only once the latest bailout ends and only if it turns out to be necessary.
Speaking in the European Parliament, Dijsselbloem said the package of reforms now under negotiation between Greece, the euro zone governments and the International Monetary Fund was not about more austerity, but about boosting economic growth.
"The parliament has my personal strong commitment that we will achieve that deal for Greece in May. It needs to be done in May," Dijsselbloem said.
"Yes, we will discuss debt and debt relief will be needed to find that solution, that is my opinion and I believe that is shared in the Eurogroup," he said.
"Already last year we gave that commitment to come back to the issue of sustainability of debt for Greece, because that is the only way they will come back on a sustainable path and a sustainable economic future," Dijsselbloem said.
Reporting By Jan Strupczewski; editing by Philip Blenkinsop