(Reuters) - Greece's international creditors could pay part of the 7.2 billion euros remaining in its bailout pot as early as this month if Athens starts adopting necessary reforms, the head of the euro zone finance ministers' group said.
“My message to the Greeks is: try to start the program even before the whole renegotiation is finished,” Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem told the Financial Times in an interview.
"There are elements that you can start doing today. If you do that, then somewhere in March, maybe there can be a first disbursement. But that would require progress and not just intentions," he was quoted as saying.
Shut out of debt markets and faced with a steep fall in tax revenues, Athens is expected to run out of cash by the middle or end of March. Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said Greece will struggle to repay creditors starting with a 1.5 billion euro IMF loan repayment due in March.
On Saturday, Varoufakis also called into question a major debt repayment it must make to the European Central Bank this summer, saying Athens should negotiate with the ECB on 6.7 billion euros in Greek government bonds held by the Frankfurt-based bank that mature in July and August.
"If we spent two months talking to each other and not doing anything, at the end of April there are major problems," Dijsselbloem was quoted as saying.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble urged the new Greek government on Sunday to use the four-month window to implement its reform plan if it wanted to secure future help, saying he had no guarantees that Athens would conduct reforms during the respite.
Editing by Andrew Heavens