Europe Starts $648 Bln Aid Fund

But finance ministers say fund won’t be needed anytime soon.

European governments set up a full-time 500 billion-euro ($648 billion) fund to aid debt-swamped countries and, not for the first time in the three-year crisis, expressed confidence that the extra financial muscle won’t be needed anytime soon.

Finance ministers from the 17 euro countries declared the European Stability Mechanism operational, while saying that Spain, its biggest potential near-term customer, isn’t on the verge of tapping it. Decisions were also put off on Greece’s next aid payment and on an assistance program for Cyprus.

Asset Sales

Ministers said the next move on Greece is in the hands of the so-called troika of officials from the European Commission, ECB and International Monetary Fund, now in talks with the Greek government over budget cuts, asset sales and economic reforms.

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