Biden’s gaffe stuns debt-choked Greece

Biden’s gaffe stuns debt-choked Greece

Biden’s gaffe stuns debt-choked Greece

Greek PM Papademos (R) welcomes US Vice President Biden outside Maximou Mansion in Athens. Biden says the US stands with crisis-hit Greece in solidarity. AP photo

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden left his Greek hosts somewhat stunned yesterday after jokingly promising to bail out debt-choked Athens with “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

“This man represents the Treasury department. He’s brought hundreds of millions of dollars,” Biden said, introducing a member of his own delegation during a meeting with Greek President Karolos Papoulias.

His comments drew laughs from both the Greek and U.S. delegations. “Hang in there,” Biden said.
Biden has arrived in Athens for a two-day visit during which he will meet Greece’s political leadership. He told Greek political leaders that his government was “standing with you in solidarity,” at the start of his crucial visit.

The vice president, who traveled from Turkey, met with Papoulias before starting talks with new Prime Minister Lucas Papademos and leaders of the main parties backing the country’s new coalition government.

“It is overwhelmingly in the interest of the U.S. that Greece work its way through this financial crisis and that it remains a strong and vital part of the European Union,” Biden said before beginning talks with Papademos.

Biden said he was pleased to see that Papademos enjoyed broad support for the measures aimed at stabilizing Greece’s strained public finances and bringing its massive debt mountain under control.
Papademos said he was confident Athens could count on the support of the United States.

The eurozone debt crisis began in Greece two years ago and the country is currently negotiating the terms of a second, massive bailout package from other eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund. Eurozone ministers will meet Dec. 9 for a summit billed as key to finding a way out of a growing debt crisis and may turn to the IMF for more aid. A senior U.S. Treasury official said last week the U.S. was not planning to make such loans to the fund and added that the lender’s resources were adequate.

Illustrating Washington’s concern that the eurozone’s troubles could sap the fragile U.S. recovery, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will separately visit the eurozone this week to urge its leaders to act decisively to control the crisis. U.S. officials speaking in Washington on Geithner’s mission said he would bring advice and encouragement rather than money due to the severe budget constraints back home.

Compiled from Reuters, AP and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.