ECB/IMF: Fast Greece decision needed; no figures given

BERLIN (Reuters) - A decision on granting aid to Greece is needed quickly, the heads of the European Central Bank and IMF said on Wednesday, but did not confirm reports the bailout package could balloon to 120 billion euros over three years.

(L-R) ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn (L-R) attend a news conference on possible financial aid for Greece in Berlin, April 28, 2010. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

ECB and International Monetary Fund officials are in Athens negotiating a three-year fiscal authority plan as a condition for releasing emergency loans to debt-stricken Greece.

“It’s impossible to give any details on what will be finally agreed,” IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn told a news conference after talks with German politicians.

“We hope that the negotiation will not take too much time, that it can be done rather rapidly. But until this time it’s impossible to give any details on what will be finally agreed in the future.”

Earlier, opposition members of Germany’s parliament said Strauss-Kahn had told them a eurozone/IMF aid package for Greece will be worth 100 to 120 billion euros over three years.

At the news conference, Strauss-Kahn declined to comment on these figures.

ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet said negotiations with Greece over what was required for help to be granted should be concluded within a few days.

“I make the working assumption that this green light is given, depending on the programme itself, then we have an absolute necessity to decide very rapidly,” he told the same news conference, adding that fast-track approval by Germany’s parliament was crucial.

Strauss-Kahn concurred.

“The faster the better,” he said. “If all this goes together rapidly, I’m really confident that the problem will be fixed. But if we don’t fix it in Greece it may have a lot of consequences on the rest of the European Union.”

Bailout talks between Greece, European authorities and the IMF began in Athens last week, after Greece asked for as much as 45 billion euros in emergency loans from euro zone governments and the IMF this year.

Germany in particular has been dragging its feet over moves to prop up crumbling Greek finances.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, speaking alongside Trichet and Strauss-Kahn, said the German government wanted to reach a decision as fast as possible on aid for Greece.

“The stability of the euro is the question ... We’re seeking backing in the parliamentary groups for a speedy process,” he said, adding that the government would then agree a draft law next Monday.

Reporting by Paul Carrel, Dave Graham, Erik Kirschbaum, Sarah Marsh and Brian Rohan; editing by John Stonestreet