Athens is doing right thing, says Clinton

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The Independent US

Hillary Clinton voiced strong US support for Greece's battle to overcome its debt crisis, saying yesterday that it was taking the difficult steps required for future growth.

The US Secretary of State's visit to Athens was intended to convey Washington's backing for Prime Minister George Papandreou ahead of a meeting of eurozone leaders in Brussels on Thursday to decide on a new bailout package for Greece, amid fears that the debt crisis could spill over to Spain and Italy.

"Americans know these are difficult days, and again we stand with you as friends and allies," Ms Clinton said at a news conference.

"The United States strongly supports the Papandreou government's determination to make the necessary reforms to put Greece back on a sound financial footing and to make Greece more competitive economically."

While Washington believes European countries should take the lead in managing the Greek debt crisis, it has also been pushing the International Monetary Fund to support Mr Papandreou's austerity plans, which have led to violent protests across Greece.

Ms Clinton said the austerity plan was like "chemotherapy" but would bring results in the end. "I am not here to in any way downplay the immediate challenges, because they are real. But I am here to say that we believe strongly that this will give Greece a very strong economy going forward," she added.

The Greek Foreign Minister, Stavros Lambrinidis, said that despite the popular outrage over the deficit reduction plan, the government was determined to forge ahead with it.