IMF chief due in Athens, protests planned

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The head of the International Monetary Fund was due in Athens Tuesday on a two-day visit, as Greece negotiates the terms of extending the repayment of the three-year 110 billion ($150 billion) bailout loan that saved the debt-ridden country from default.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn was to meet with Greece’s prime minister, finance minister, opposition leader and central bank governor among others, while he was also to speak at Parliament’s economic affairs committee.

Left-wing unions planned to hold demonstrations in Athens to protest Strauss-Kahn’s visit and the strict austerity program the government has imposed to meet IMF and EU conditions to receive the bailout.

Facing a mountain of debt and a deficit that stood at 15.4 percent of gross domestic product in 2009, Greece’s Socialist government has imposed stringent cost-cutting measures, including cutting civil service salaries, trimming pensions and increasing consumer taxes.

The country can receive funds from the bailout program until mid-2013, provided it meets specific targets in cutting its debt and budget deficit each quarter. However, it faced large debt repayments in 2014 and 2015, immediately after the program ends, and analysts had been concerned with Greece’s ability to cope with the repayment.

Last month, European Union governments agreed to look into extending the deadline for Greece to repay its loans, from three years to 7 1/2 years, bringing the Greek loan package in line with one agreed recently for Ireland. The terms of the repayment — the timing schedule and whether it will include the full 110 billion or just the portion still to be disbursed — have not been decided on.

Several European countries, including Germany, will have to submit the agreement to Parliament for approval over the next few months before it can be finalized.

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