Clinton backs Greek economic plans

July 17, 2011 - 4:59 AM
Greece Clinton

An unidentified man kisses the hand of US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton upon her arrival in Athens, as she continues her regional diplomatic tour, Saturday, July 16, 2011. (AP Photo / Saul Loeb, Pool)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is in Greece to show American support for the financially troubled country's economic recovery plans.

Senior U.S. officials in Athens with Clinton say the secretary on Sunday will underscore Washington's backing for Greece's deficit and debt reduction programs at the International Monetary Fund and elsewhere, even as the Obama administration grapples with a similar issue at home.

The Greek financial crisis looms over other items on Clinton's agenda here, including improving ties between Greece and Turkey, resolving the long-standing dispute over divided Cyprus, the Middle East peace process and the wave of popular discontent sweeping the Arab world.

Greece's government has embarked on a punishing new round of austerity measures after missing its deficit-cutting targets so far in 2011. Spending cuts and tax hikes have already sparked frequent strikes and demonstrations, with protests often turning violent in central Athens.

Clinton's meetings with top Greek officials come as Greece prepares for an emergency summit on Thursday in Brussels of the leaders of the 17 eurozone countries at which they will attempt to forge a deal on a second bailout for the nation.

Greece needs an extra $162.68 billion (euro115 billion) to keep it afloat until mid-2014, according to the European Commission — on top of a euro110 billion bailout it was granted last May.

Fears that Greece's private creditors may have to take losses as part of the deal dragged the big economies of Spain and Italy into the debt crisis, which has so far been confined to small states like Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Clinton is visiting Athens on the second leg of a 12-day around-the-world diplomatic tour. She came to Greece from Turkey and will travel to India, Indonesia, Hong Kong and southern mainland China before returning home on July 25.