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Greece opposition leader calls for debt write-off

AP Business Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - The leader of Greece's leftist opposition, Alexis Tsipras, is calling for an agreement to wipe out some of the government debt that Greece and other countries in Europe are struggling to repay.

Tsipras, considered a likely candidate to become the next prime minister, met with economists and members of the media on Friday at the Greek Mission to the United Nations in New York.

He said European leaders needed to put an end to the region's crisis by reaching an agreement to ease the debt burdens of Greece and other deeply indebted countries, instead of taking a piecemeal approach. He suggested that the agreement could include a moratorium on debt payments until countries pull out of recession.

"The main concern is finding an end to this crisis," Tsipras said, speaking through an interpreter. "There has to be a solution for Europe that gives creditors their money back and the Greek economy, and other economies, time to recover."

Greece is entering its sixth year of a recession with its unemployment rate at 26 percent.

Tsipras heads Syriza, a collection of left-wing parties. In recent polls, Syriza's popularity rivals that of the New Democracy party, which currently leads the governing coalition in parliament. Tsipras has been an outspoken critic of the budget-cutting measures adopted by the Greek government in exchange for rescue loans from other European states and the International Monetary Fund.

During elections last year, Tsipras made headlines for saying that his first step when in power would be to cancel Greece's bailout agreements. Many worried that such a move would lead Greece to drop the euro currency and spread turmoil from Europe to the global financial system.

Tsipras said he's been widely misunderstood. "I was `the most dangerous man in Europe,'" he said. But his basic arguments have gained wider acceptance. The IMF, a longtime advocate of austerity policies, has recently said cutting social spending in the face of a shrinking economy only makes things worse. And analysts argue that Europe's underlying problems are bigger than those of any one country.

"We feel justified because we were among the first to say it was a European crisis, not just a Greek crisis," Tsipras said.


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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