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Court-appointed negotiator: Argentina won't answer calls to resume debt settlement talks

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NEW YORK — A lawyer appointed to lead negotiations between U.S. bondholders and Argentina over unpaid debts said Thursday the South American nation is not responding to requests to negotiate.

Special Master Daniel A. Pollack released a statement saying Argentina's lawyers have failed to respond to calls over the past two weeks to meet to discuss a proposal from U.S. bondholders, led by billionaire hedge fund investor Paul Singer's NML Capital Ltd.

The offer, Pollack said, came without pre-conditions and offered the possibility that Argentina could settle without being required to immediately pay cash, with details to be negotiated.

U.S. District Judge Thomas P. Griesa has issued rulings saying Argentina must pay U.S. bondholders the roughly $1.5 billion they are owed if it makes payments to more than 90 percent of its bondholders who swapped their bonds for ones of lesser value in 2005 and 2010.

The swaps occurred after Argentina defaulted in 2001 on $100 billion of debt. U.S. hedge funds then picked up their bonds on the cheap and sought to enforce the terms of the bonds through the courts.

Pollack said Griesa asked him to issue a public statement on the status of negotiations.

The special master said he resumed efforts to negotiate Jan. 30 by reaching out to Argentina's New York lawyers and following up with phone calls over the next two weeks.

"The government of Argentina has neither accepted nor otherwise responded to the invitation by the bondholders," he said.

Lawyers on both sides did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Pollack noted in his statement that Argentina has said it was hampered in its negotiations last year because a clause in the contracts of some of its bondholders would entitle them to match any deal reached with the U.S. bondholders. Pollack said the clause expired on Dec. 31.

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