NEW YORK (AP) — Spurned by the U.S. Supreme Court and facing a looming deadline to pay up after losing a decade-long battle over defaulted debt, Argentine officials are finally coming to the table, agreeing to negotiations next week with U.S. hedge funds who are owed a total of $1.5 billion.
Attorney Carmine Boccuzzi told Judge Thomas P. Griesa in Manhattan federal court Wednesday that Argentina wants "to have a dialogue" with bondholders who refused to exchange their bonds for new bonds at a much lower value in the years after Argentina's economy collapsed in 2001.
"We're trying to resolve this," Boccuzzi said. "There is that willingness to negotiate. ... Everyone is saying they want a negotiation. So Argentina is prepared to negotiate with the holdouts."
Boccuzzi warned, though, that "payment in full to all the holdouts and to the restructured debt is something that cannot be done."
Boccuzzi said Argentine authorities who were before Congress on Wednesday planned to be in New York next week before the judge, ready for negotiations.
His counterpart, attorney Robert A. Cohen for the bondholders, asked the judge for protection in the event Argentina follows through on threats to dodge the U.S. obligations.
"Your honor, we have been prepared to negotiate with Argentina since this began," he said. "They know where we have been, and we would be happy to talk to them."
Griesa reacted to Boccuzzi's remarks cautiously, saying: "You can talk about negotiating. Negotiation is fine. But, as a judge, what I want is a legal mechanism to prevent another situation where the republic can simply laugh off a judgment."
Boccuzzi's comments reflecting the dire financial condition of the country came after remarks this week by Argentina President Cristina Fernandez and her economy minister, Axel Kiciloff.
They defiantly announced after a final appeal by Argentina was turned away by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday that rather than comply with Griesa's orders, they will try to engineer yet another bond swap beyond the reach of U.S. law.
The judge read aloud in court parts of Fernandez's speech, calling it "unfortunate."
In her speech, Fernandez vowed to defy what she called extortion by the holdout bondholders led by New York billionaire Paul Singer's NML Capital Ltd. But she said her government "will not default on those who believed in Argentina" by accepting the debt swaps, and she also expressed hope that 100 percent of the holders of Argentine debt will agree to new payment plans, opening the door to negotiations.
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