German Parliament voting on Greek debt deal

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German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble gestures during his speech as part of a meeting of the German federal parliament, Bundestag, in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Nov. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's finance minister urged lawmakers Friday to support a deal to trim Greece's debt load and keep the country afloat, but insisted that it would be irresponsible to hold out the prospect of more radical debt forgiveness now.

Tuesday's deal by the finance ministers of the 17 EU countries that use the euro paves the way for Greece to finally receive €44 billion ($57 billion) in critical rescue loans, without which the country would face bankruptcy and a possible exit from the euro.

It also contains measures, including a debt buyback program and an interest rate cut on loans that are aimed at cutting back Greece's debts and giving it more time to push through economic reforms and trim its budget deficit.

However, it stops short of forgiving outright debt owed to lead creditor Germany and other eurozone governments. Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has strongly opposed a so-called "haircut" in the run-up to elections next year.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told lawmakers that the latest deal will keep the pressure on Greece to fulfill its promises and that blocking loan payouts would have all round Europe.

"We have always pushed the principle of conditionality, and that goes here too," Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said. "Greece will only receive all this relief if it continues to implement its reform measures, one after another."

Germany's Parliament has to approve eurozone rescue measures. The bailouts of Greece and others haven't been popular in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, and there has been growing unease in Merkel's coalition.

A solid majority is anticipated in Friday's vote as two opposition parties are expected to vote largely in favor.

Many economists say that Greece's debt burden — forecast to reach some 190 percent of its gross domestic product next year — can only be managed by writing off more government loans. Germany's opposition parties also argue that the move will be inevitable sooner or later.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a leading member of the main opposition Social Democrats said the deal on the table "is not a sustainable solution for Greece" and argued that the government had merely "bought time" — above all to avoid addressing "unpleasant truths."

"You know that ... everything points toward a haircut in the end, but you are avoiding this truth like the plague," Steinmeier told Schaeuble. However, he said his party would back the deal because "we cannot leave the Greeks in the lurch."

The government argues that full-scale debt relief is legally impossible at present and would send the wrong message.

"If you say debt will be forgiven, then people's readiness to save in order to get further aid is weakened," Schaeuble said. "If we want to help Greece along this difficult road, we must advance step by step, and the wrong speculation at the wrong time doesn't solve the problem."