ATHENS (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Sunday voiced strong U.S. support for Greece's battle to overcome its debt crisis, saying it was taking the difficult steps required for future growth.
"The United States strongly supports the (Prime Minister George) Papandreou government's determination to make the necessary reforms to put Greece back on sound financial footing and to make Greece more competitive economically," Clinton said.
"Greece has inspired the world before and I have every confidence that you are doing so again," she said in Athens after a meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis.
Clinton's visit to Greece comes as euro zone leaders prepare to meet in Brussels on Thursday to discuss a second bailout package for Greece amid fears that the debt crisis risks spreading to Spain and Italy and could pull apart Europe's single currency project.
Clinton said Greek's politically painful plan for a medium-term fiscal strategy and bringing down its whopping debt were like "chemotherapy," but would bring results in the end.
"I am not here to in any way downplay the immediate challenges because they are real. But I am here to say that we believe strongly that this will give Greece a very strong economy going forward," Clinton said.
Lambrinidis said that despite the popular outrage over the deficit reduction plan -- which has brought thousands of Greeks to the streets in protest -- the government was determined to forge ahead.
"Despite the doom-sayers we are proceeding and we shall come out of this victorious," he said.
(reporting by Andrew Quinn, editing by Peter Millership)