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By Richard Lough
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 8 (Reuters) - Argentina has no expectations that the U.S. judge at the centre of its debt battle with holdout investors that has plunged the country into default will take steps to help resolve the saga, a senior government minister said on Friday.
Jorge Capitanich, Argentina’s cabinet chief, said U.S. District Judge Thomas Griesa still had the opportunity to suspend his ruling that orders Argentina to pay in full the New York hedge funds that previously refused to restructure their bonds before it resumes servicing its performing debt.
“The judge has done nothing, resolved absolutely nothing,” Capitanich told reporters in the capital Buenos Aires. “Regarding the decision-making of the judge, the hopes held by the Republic of Argentina are, in truth, zero.”
Griesa has called a new hearing for Friday at 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT) to address recent public statements by the Argentine government, which has accused the veteran judge of over-stepping his remit and interfering in the affairs of a sovereign nation.
Griesa told Argentina last Friday that it could not turn its back on negotiations and instructed both sides to continue talks through a mediator. There have been no publicly acknowledged discussions since then.
Argentina insists it is not in default, arguing it made a June 30 interest payment to those who swapped their bonds and accepted large writedowns by depositing the funds with an intermediary bank. Griesa blocked the onward transfer of those funds, saying the payment breached his ruling.
Argentine debt prices fluctuated on Thursday, initially firming on the news of a possible deal between banks and the holdouts before easing back after Argentina asked the world court in The Hague to take action against the United States.
In its application, the government alleged ”violations of Argentine sovereignty ... and other related violations as a result of judicial decisions adopted by U.S. tribunals.
Several international banks were said earlier on Wednesday to be close to a deal to buy debt from the holdouts led by Elliott Management Corp and Aurelius Capital Ltd.
However, the possibility of a wave of “me-too” claims from other creditors who rejected the 2005 and 2010 bond swaps is also threatening to scupper any of the relief Argentina may gain from the ongoing bank talks.
Argentina says it would break a legal clause in the 2005 and 2010 bond restructurings if it cut a deal with the holdouts. The Rights Upon Future Offers (RUFO) bars it from offering better terms to holdouts than the haircuts accepted by creditors after the country’s last default in 2002.
“There is the opportunity to grant a stay ... which would involve extending the suspension of the order until after the end of the year,” Capitanich said. The RUFO clause expires on Dec. 31. (Editing by Alden Bentley)