Some progress on Greek debt deal, gaps remain

Thu Sep 20, 2012 8:08pm EDT
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By Lefteris Papadimas and Harry Papachristou

ATHENS (Reuters) - Negotiators discussing Greece's bailout came closer to an accord in late night talks on Thursday but are still short of a final deal over some 11.5 billion euros ($14.9 billion) of spending cuts demanded by international creditors, officials said after talks concluded.

The European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank "troika" team visiting Athens has rejected some of the measures proposed by the Greek government, holding up final agreement on unlocking the next installment of Greece's 31.5 billion-euro bailout package.

A senior official said the late night talks secured agreement on several points including the symbolically important step of raising the pension age to 67 years. He said further advances were likely when talks resume on Friday.

"There was some progress, a funding gap remains but there are novel ideas as to how it can be covered," the official told reporters waiting at the finance ministry.

He said an agreement at the technical level might come as soon as Friday after which the troika leaders could leave to prepare their report.

Previously, officials said a deal may not be in place by the time the troika leaders would leave at the weekend, meaning they would have to return next week to wrap up the agreement, which must be finalized in time for an October 8 meeting of Eurogroup finance ministers.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's government has acknowledged that the talks with the troika have been "difficult" with the inspectors pressing Athens to make deep cuts and accept an end to its taboo on firing civil servants.

Greek officials said agreement on 9.5 billion euros of the 11.5 billion-euro package of spending cuts had been reached.   Continued...

Greece's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (R) leaves his office after a meeting with the government's coalition party leaders in Athens September 20, 2012. Greece's latest round of talks with lenders on an austerity plan was marked by moments of tension as the two sides squabbled over a plan to reform the country's bloated public sector, government officials told Reuters on Thursday. REUTERS/John Kolesidis