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Greek president to visit Berlin 'soon' for war payment talks

BERLIN, Germany - Greece's president said Monday, April 27, he hoped to meet his German counterpart soon for talks on Athens' demands for reparations over the Nazi occupation of Greece during World War II.

"I will visit Germany as soon as possible," Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos said in an interview with German news outlet Spiegel Online.

He suggested the dispute over Greece's demands for reparations - which Germany rejects - be resolved in an international forum, such as the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

"This is how civilised countries settle their differences of opinion," Pavlopoulos, a professor of constitutional law and former government minister, said.

The radical leftist government that came to power in Greece in January has stepped up pressure on Berlin over the emotional and controversial issue of war payments.

As tempers flare between debt-mired Greece and the eurozone's paymaster over the debt crisis, Athens has stirred painful memories of the Nazis' bloody occupation of the country.

A junior minister told the Greek parliament earlier this month that the figure owed by Germany was more than 278 billion euros ($300 billion), including some 10 billion for a forced loan taken by Nazi occupation forces.

Berlin argues the issue is settled and that a treaty signed by former East and West Germany with the Allies in 1990 to formally end World War II effectively drew a line under possible future claims for war reparations.

But Pavlopoulos, who was elected in February, said the Greek claims were "legally valid and we have the right to enforce them by legal means".

He, however, firmly rejected threats that German assets in Greece could be seized to pay for wartime atrocities. 

"Let me emphasise that no reasonable person in Greece is considering unilateral actions," he said. - Rappler.com