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Euro ministers back plan for new Greek aid

It clears way for next payment of bailout money

BRUSSELS — Greece is about to get the next installment of its much-needed bailout loans after finance ministers from the 17 European Union countries that use the euro agreed on a program to reduce the country’s debt.

The first disbursement will be Dec. 13, said Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the group of finance ministers, which made the decision early Tuesday.

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, welcomed the agreement.

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‘‘It will certainly reduce the uncertainty and strengthen confidence in Europe and in Greece,’’ Draghi said.

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It was the third time in the past two weeks that finance ministers had tried to hammer out a deal on the next installment of bailout money — some $57.8 billion.

The so-called troika — the European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund, and European Commission — have twice agreed to bail out Greece, pledging a total of $312 billion in rescue loans, of which the country has received about $195 billion so far. Greece has had to impose several rounds of austerity measures and submit its economy to scrutiny.

Greece is predicted to enter its sixth year of recession shortly, and there had been fears that it might be forced to drop out of the eurozone, destabilizing other countries in the process.

The main aim of the bailout program is to right Greece’s economy and get the nation to a point where it can independently raise money on the debt markets. It has been clear for months that the country is far from achieving that goal.

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The agreement includes:

 A plan to cut debt to 124 percent of gross domestic product by 2020 and below 110 percent by 2022. The original goal was 120 percent by 2020.

­  Lowering by 100 basis points the interest rate charged to Greece by other eurozone states — excluding those that are also receiving bailouts.

 A 15-year extension of the maturities of loans from other countries and the eurozone’s bailout fund.

‘‘This is not just about money,’’ Juncker said. ‘‘It is the promise of a better future for the Greek people and for the euro area as a whole.’’