Argentina officials arrive for debt deadline talks

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — Argentina's finance secretary arrived Tuesday for talks aimed at avoiding that country's second default in 13 years, though it was unclear whether meetings with a mediator offered any real chance at a deal.

Finance Secretary Pablo Lopez arrived in late morning with other representatives of the South American nation to meet with a court-appointed mediator, Daniel A. Pollack.

The Argentina group, which included Lopez, Javier Pargament from Argentina's treasury office, and two lawyers, did not speak to reporters who waited outside a midtown Manhattan building.

When he entered the building, Pollack said: "Time is short. We will do the best we can."

U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Griesa last week ordered round-the-clock negotiations to avert a Wednesday default deadline. But talks have been sporadic and have failed to bring representatives of Argentina to the table with lawyers for U.S. hedge funds.

The hedge funds are owed about $1.5 billion for unpaid debts. Argentina has so far said it is unable to comply with court orders requiring that the hedge funds be paid if the majority of bondholders who swapped their bonds for lower-valued bonds in the past decade are paid.

President Cristina Fernandez has long refused to negotiate with the U.S. hedge funds, led by New York billionaire Paul Singer's NML Capital Ltd., who spent more than a decade litigating for payment in full rather than agreeing to provide Argentina with debt relief.

Argentina has labeled the U.S. funds "vultures" for picking up bonds on the cheap. The government has said paying the U.S. funds would likely trigger lawsuits from other bondholders demanding payment on similar terms. That, officials say, would cost up to $15 billion.