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Argentina's Kirchner wants "just and equitable" deal on debt

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner signalled her willingness Friday to enter negotiations on the country's debt, as the country faces a potential default at the end of the month.

BUENOS AIRES: Argentine President Cristina Kirchner signalled her willingness on Friday to enter negotiations on the country's debt, as the country faces a potential default at the end of the month.

But a US federal judge ordered Buenos Aires to pay holdout hedge fund bondholders in the United States, not Argentina.

Argentine Economy Minister Axel Kicillof has proposed that Argentina initiate steps to carry out a debt exchange inside the country.

But US District Judge Thomas Griesa ruled that the move was "in violation" of the court, and that "Argentina is prohibited from carrying out the proposal."

Four days after the US Supreme Court decided against Argentina in its fight against hedge fund bond holders, Kirchner said her country has "the right and the need to participate in a negotiation that is just and equitable."

"We want to honour 100 per cent of the creditors, the 92.4 per cent who renegotiated in 2005 and 2010, and those that didn't. We only ask them for conditions that are fair," she added.

The top court's decision set the clock ticking for the country to pay back "holdouts," who refused to join the majority of creditors in support of the restructuring several years ago of nearly $100 billion of defaulted debt.

Most creditors accepted large write-downs of the bonds, but the court ruling means Argentina now must pay the holdouts 100 per cent of the debt's face value -- $15 billion in total.

With that payment now needed by June 30, Argentina says it could be forced to default on all its debt.

Since the Supreme Court ruling on Monday, the country has sent mixed signals, that it would turn to a "Plan B" to move the restructured debt away from US law, and avoid paying the holdouts, and also that it would negotiate over the issue.

Kirchner said on Friday she wants Argentina's lawyers to ask Griesa, who originally handled the case, to set conditions for a negotiated settlement that would respect both US and Argentine laws.

On Wednesday, Griesa questioned Argentina's willingness to pay and whether, after a decade fighting the holdouts, resisting negotiations and stalling on meeting court rulings, it was truly willing to deal.

"You can talk about negotiations. But I believe there has to be a legal mechanism to prevent what I'm talking about, because we do not want another charade," he said.

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