Greece's Tsipras says loan deal with lenders close

Wed Aug 5, 2015 12:26pm EDT
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By Michele Kambas and Angeliki Koutantou

ATHENS (Reuters) - Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday that Greece was close to concluding a deal with lenders on a multi-billion-euro bailout, which he said would end doubts over its place in the euro zone.

The comments were the latest in a series of unusually upbeat assessments by Greek and European officials of progress in talks towards up to 86 billion euros ($93.6 billion) in fresh loans to stave off the country's financial ruin and economic collapse.

"We are in the final stretch," Tsipras said. "Despite the difficulties we are facing we hope this agreement can end uncertainty on the future of Greece."

An accord must be settled -- or a bridge loan agreed -- by Aug. 20, when a 3.5 billion euro debt payment to the European Central Bank falls due.

Both sides have said such a deal is possible, although the European Commission described the target as ambitious, suggesting much remains to be done.

Discussions between Greece and representatives from the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, European Commission and the euro zone's bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, started in the last week of July.

Tsipras, who was visiting the agriculture ministry, said the process should also potentially include the European Parliament, indirectly alluding to past complaints over the legitimacy of demands from lenders.

"It should at some point be under the control and monitoring of the European Parliament, a democratic institution which has accountability," Tsipras said.   Continued...

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras gives a speech at the Agriculture Ministry in central Athens, Greece, August 5, 2015.   REUTERS/Yiannis Kourtoglou