Greece: IMF says key difference remain in bailout talks

AP News
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Posted: Mar 09, 2017 3:21 PM
Greece: IMF says key difference remain in bailout talks

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's government wound up more talks with its creditors Thursday without a breakthrough that would unfreeze bailout payments, and the International Monetary Fund warned that "much work" remained before differences could be resolved.

The current negotiations initially were scheduled to end last year, and the delay has raised doubts about whether 2017 will be the year the country emerges from years of recession and flat growth.

"There has been progress in some important areas and, we welcome that. However, differences remain in important areas," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said in Washington.

"It's still too early to speculate on when an agreement might be reached," Rice said.

In Athens, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said the main point of friction was Greece's bid to restore collective wage bargaining.

Athens hopes to establish the framework of a deal by a March 20 meeting of European finance ministers, Tzannakopoulos said. The framework would form part of a future "comprehensive agreement" that would include measures to relieve Greece's debt mountain, he said.

A deal would allow the release of loans from the country's 86-billion euro bailout, without which Athens will be unable to handle a summer spike in scheduled debt payments.

That would leave Greece staring at a potential exit from the euro, a scenario it has repeatedly encountered since the first bailout deal in 2010.

The left-led government has already agreed to extend austerity measures, expected to include further pension cuts and higher taxation, beyond the end of the current three-year bailout program in mid-2018.

Nevertheless, it insists additional pain for austerity-weary Greeks after the bailout expires will be fully offset by benefits — provided Greece meets its ambitious budgetary targets.

Before the meetings concluded Thursday, Greek officials spent 10 days negotiating with the country's European creditors and the IMF, both on reforms that are currently required and post-bailout cutbacks.

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Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed