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Policy: Law

Bondholders to judge: No wiggle room for Argentina

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Photo - FILE - In this June 17, 2014 file photo, Argentina's Economy MInister Axel Kicillof talks to the media during a news conference to explain the recent U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on Argentina's bond default and discuss how the government plans to proceed, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. For over a decade, Argentina avoided paying $1.5 billion it owed to U.S. hedge funds for defaulted bonds. But after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene in the case this week, the country must pay up by the end of this month. (AP Photo/Eduardo Di Baia, File)
FILE - In this June 17, 2014 file photo, Argentina's Economy MInister Axel Kicillof talks to the media during a news conference to explain the recent U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on Argentina's bond default and discuss how the government plans to proceed, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. For over a decade, Argentina avoided paying $1.5 billion it owed to U.S. hedge funds for defaulted bonds. But after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene in the case this week, the country must pay up by the end of this month. (AP Photo/Eduardo Di Baia, File)
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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — The winners of a decade-long debt battle asked a U.S. judge on Tuesday to deny Argentina's request for more negotiating time to avoid a catastrophic default.

The plaintiffs said Argentina must first show it's serious about paying a judgment by June 30 that, with interest, will have grown to $1.65 billion.

Lawyers for NML Capital Ltd. and other bondholders told U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa in Manhattan that Argentina will only try to evade the court's orders if it's given more time.

"It is no accident that Argentina's first (tentative) settlement overture in more than a decade comes only when it faces a realistic — but firm — timeframe," their motion reads.

Economy Minister Axel Kicillof asked Monday for a delay, saying the government is ready to talk once the judge guarantees "equal treatment" for 100 percent of Argentina's creditors. Enforcing the deadline meanwhile could provoke a disorderly default, he warned, sinking the nation's economy and potentially causing financial havoc around the globe.

The plaintiffs countered that if Argentina pays up by Monday, it won't have any problems resolving the rest of its debts in plenty of time.

The terms of Griesa's ruling, which the U.S. Supreme Court allowed to stand, forbid the U.S. financial system from processing Argentina's payments to other bondholders if it hasn't first paid the plaintiffs. Argentina's next installment to the majority of its creditors is $907 million, due June 30, but the government has a 30-day grace period thereafter to avoid default.

"Although Argentina claims that a stay would facilitate negotiations, just the opposite is true. If Argentina is serious about negotiating a resolution, there is no reason why negotiations could not be concluded prior to July 30, 2014," NML Capital's lawyers told the judge.

President Cristina Fernandez said Friday that she wants the judge's support for a process that would enable her government to resolve 100 percent of Argentina's debts — including holders of the last 7 percent of bonds that went into default in 2001 and are held by investors who weren't part of the winning case. The plaintiffs on Tuesday basically called her bluff, saying that if she is finally serious about paying those debts, she's welcome to do so ahead of the court's deadline.

With just six days left before June 30, "Argentina's officials have yet to engage in any way with the principals of its creditors, or even take steps to schedule such a meeting," said their motion to deny the stay.

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