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Greece Says To Get First Emergency Loans Before May 19

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou
Greece expects to receive the first tranche of funds under a 45 billion-euro ($60 billion) aid package before May 19.

Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou made the announcement today, just hours after Prime Minister George Papandreou requested the activation of a rescue loan package aimed at pulling the country out of its debt crisis.

Papandreou, in televised comments, said activating the 45 billion-euro package of European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF) funds was "a national need."

The appeal came one day after EU figures revealed that Greece's 2009 budget deficit was larger than previously thought, sending borrowing costs for Greece on financial markets to record highs.

The Greek debt crisis has shaken the euro, raising fears other weak economies among the 16 countries using the common currency could face similar problems.

Papandreou today said that by releasing the rescue funds, the EU would send markets a strong message that it can protect common interests and the common currency.

In Washington, IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said the fund would "move expeditiously" on the Greek bailout request.

But German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that aid was not automatic, depending on Athens producing a credible savings plan and proof that eurozone stability was on the line.

Merkel said the stability of the euro "is the first priority."

compiled from agency reports