Celebrity Greek minister challenged over 'Obama meeting'

GMT 00:11 2015 Wednesday ,15 April

Arab Today, arab today Celebrity Greek minister challenged over 'Obama meeting'

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis
Washington - AFP

Greece's media-star Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis will visit Washington later this week, but already he is courting controversy, with US officials challenging claims he will hold a meeting with President Barack Obama.

Varoufakis's ministry claimed that he and Obama will meet on Thursday afternoon, as part of a White House commemoration of Greece's 19th century independence struggle.

The leftist economist -- who wrote a book that dubbed the United States a "Global Minotaur" that was to blame for the 2008 financial crisis -- is in Washington for meetings at the International Monetary Fund.

The Greek government is locked in tense negotiations with its EU and IMF creditors on a list of reforms it must carry out to unblock 7.2 billion euros ($7.7 billion) of bailout loans.

But US officials played down any suggestion of a private meeting with President Obama, which would be a major political coup following Obama's tacit criticism of austerity measures imposed on Athens.

"You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of depression," Obama said shortly after Greek elections that brought Varoufakis in to government.

But a US official, who asked not to be named, said Varoufakis will attend the reception "as the representative of the Greek government."

"There are no bilateral meetings with the White House scheduled alongside this annual event."

It is not impossible the two men will bump in to each other at the large event, but a formal meeting is being ruled out.

While in Washington, the Greek minister may also cross paths with his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble.

The two men, who fundamentally disagree on how to revive Greece's shattered economy, have been invited to speak separately on Europe at the prestigious Brookings Institution think tank Thursday morning.

On Friday, the first day of World Bank and IMF Spring meetings, Varoufakis will hold talks with European Central Bank president Mario Draghi, his Italian counterpart Pier Carlo Padoan and US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.

Other officials involved in the tough negotiations between Greece and its creditors will also be present, among them IMF chief Christine Lagarde and EU Finance Commissioner Pierre Moscovici.


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