Iceland returns to negotiating table on debt repayment dispute

1 March 2010

Icelandic officials have restarted negotiations with their counterparts from Holland and the UK over $5.3 billion owed to investors from the two countries following the collapse of Landsbanki in 2008.

A fortnight of talks ended in deadlock last week, but the sides have returned to the negotiating table to thrash out a deal.

Time is running out before a referendum takes place in Iceland on Saturday (March 6th 2010) on whether the state should foot the bill for repaying foreign investors.

With a 'no' vote thought to be likely – a move that could lead to the International Monetary Fund withdrawing its financial support of the Icelandic economy – an agreement is desperately being sought to avoid the complications that will be caused by the referendum.

Steingrimur Sigfusson, Iceland's finance minister, told the Financial Times: "It is very important that both sides keep lines open so we do not make this mess any bigger."

The prospect of a referendum was triggered in January after the country's president Olafur Grimsson refused to sign a parliamentary bill to repay the debts.

He said that it was important the people of Iceland had a say in the decision.

By Claire Archer

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