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Eurozone approves funds for Greece

The 17 European Union nations that use the euro have struck an agreement with the International Monetary Fund on a programme to reduce Greek debt and put Athens on the way to get the next instalment of its much-needed bailout loans.

The first disbursement is set to take place on December 13, said Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the eurogroup of finance ministers, after today's decision.

Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank, said markets should pay heed.

"It will certainly reduce the uncertainty and strengthen confidence in Europe and in Greece."

This was the third time in the last two weeks that finance ministers from the eurozone had tried to hammer out a deal on the next instalment of bailout money - some 44.6 billion euro (£36 billion).

In Athens, Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras welcomed it as a great victory. "As Greeks, we fought together. And tomorrow a new day begins for all Greeks."

And the EU lauded all Greeks for holding their country back from the brink.

"We strongly believe in the Greek capacity to recover. The Greek people are courageous people. They are willing to bring their country back on the path of growth," Mr Juncker said.

The so-called troika of the European Central Bank, IMF and the European Commission, which is the 27-country EU's executive arm, have twice agreed to bail out Greece, pledging a total of 240 billion euro (£194 billion) in rescue loans - of which the country has received about 150 billion (£121 billion) so far.

In return for its bailout loans, 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 has a quarter of its workforce out of a job, and there had been fears it might be forced to drop out of the eurozone, destabilising other countries in the process.

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