Poll shows support for Icesave deal shrinking

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Support is falling in Iceland for a renegotiated compensation deal with Britain and the Netherlands over the collapsed Icesave bank, ahead of an April referendum, a poll showed Thursday.

A poll published in the Icelandic Business News weekly showed 52 percent of those who responded would vote in favour of the Icesave deal if the April 9 referendum were held today, whereas 48 percent said they would reject the deal.

Wednesday's numbers showed shrinking support for the deal compared to a poll published in the Frettabladid daily last month in which over 61 percent said they intended to vote 'Yes' in the referendum.

Advance voting in the referendum began Wednesday, with 140 Icelanders casting their ballots.

Icelandic negotiators have been struggling for more than two years to reach an acceptable deal on how to repay Britain and the Netherlands for the 3.9 billion euros ($5.3 billion) they spent compensating around 340,000 of their citizens hit by the collapse of online bank Icesave in October 2008 at the height of the global financial crisis.

The latest deal, considered much more favourable to Iceland than a previous version rejected in another referendum in early 2010, was agreed in December and voted through by nearly 70 percent of Iceland's MPs.

The deal, which would allow Iceland to repay very gradually until 2046 at a 3.0 to 3.3-percent interest rate, only needed the president's stamp of approval before being turned into law.

Instead, President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson said he would again put the bill to a referendum as he had with the initial version.

The first time however, the wildly unpopular bill, which called for full repayment by 2026 at a 5.5-percent interest rate, was rejected by 93.2 percent of voters.

This time around, few expect London or The Hague to sit down again if the vote is 'No,' meaning the case could end up in a European Free Trade Association (EFTA) court.

The pollsters surveyed 900 Icelanders from March 8 to 11.

© 2011 AFP

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