Germany pressing Athens to restructure debt: report

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany is urging Athens to adopt contingency plans that would foresee a voluntary, "market-friendly" debt restructuring should Greece fail to meet its ambitious fiscal targets, the Financial Times reported.

Citing people briefed about Berlin's thinking, the newspaper wrote on Saturday that one plan involved swapping Greek debt at market prices for paper guaranteed by the eurozone, similar to "Brady Bonds" issued by South American countries in the late 1980s.

The other main option entailed providing debt relief assistance by buying bonds from investors and then retiring the debt or extending their maturities -- a plan akin to the International Monetary Fund's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.

"The government has long since started preparing for a Greek restructuring," the FT quoted one person briefed as saying.

"It's not pushing Greece into this. It knows that none of these plans will work if the Greeks don't want them."

Other options were also being considered but chancellery and finance ministry officials had spent time analyzing these "market friendly" options. Leading voices in the German government believe a Greek debt restructuring is highly probable, people involved in the discussions have told Reuters.

The chancellery declined to comment on the FT report, referring all media inquiries on the matter to the finance ministry.

A finance ministry spokesman said he had nothing to add or rescind from minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who had said on Friday the media had misinterpreted his remarks to a newspaper to mean Berlin acknowledged the need to restructure Greece's debt.

"That is absolutely not an issue," the spokesman said, referring to a restructuring.

In June the IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission will examine whether Greece has met the prerequisites to receive the next tranche of its 110 billion euro bailout package, he said.

In an interview in Die Welt, Schaeuble said "additional steps" would need to be taken should the progress report in June conclude there are doubts about the fiscal sustainability, adding however that any restructuring would have to be voluntary if done before 2013.

So far Greece has received 53 billion in four separate payments.

(Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner, additional reporting by Matthias Sobolewski; Editing by Alison Birrane)