Greece, lenders seek to bridge differences on cuts plan

Mon Sep 10, 2012 6:56am EDT
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By Lefteris Papadimas

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras sought on Monday to bridge differences with the country's lenders over a near 12-billion-euro austerity package, after they rejected parts of the plan that Athens hopes will unlock further aid payments.

The "troika" of inspectors from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund rejected unspecified aspects of the plan prepared by Samaras's government when talks between the two sides resumed Sunday.

The inspectors, who returned to Athens after a month-long hiatus, must approve the cuts if Athens is to get a green light for the bailout money it needs to avoid bankruptcy.

Samaras met the inspectors for further talks on Monday.

On Sunday, the junior partners in the premier's fragile three-party coalition warned troika officials against pushing austerity too far, saying that low-income pensioners and civil servants must be spared as much as possible.

"Our European partners must realize that the Greek people can't take it any more," moderate leftist leader Fotis Kouvelis told reporters after meeting Samaras.

A Greek source familiar with the matter said the troika felt a string of proposed measures worth about 2 billion euros, such as cutting public sector operating expenses, were too vague.

Visiting Athens last month, Eurogroup chief Jean-Claude Juncker had warned the Greek government that the budget cuts needed to be "credible and verifiable". Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras played down the inspectors' objections, saying only a "few" measures had been rejected.   Continued...

International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Deputy Director and Mission Chief to Greece Poul Thomsen (C) arrives at the Finance Ministry for a meeting in Athens September 9, 2012. REUTERS/John Kolesidis