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Progress seen in Greek austerity talks

Athens, October 6, 2012, Reuters: 22:02 IST
Greece will continue talks with international lenders next week on new austerity measures for the debt-ridden country to clinch its next loan tranche, the finance minister said on Saturday, with both sides saying progress had been made.

Negotiators had been pushing for a deal before a meeting of Euro Zone finance ministers on Monday, but Greece said it would settle for a statement acknowledging that talks were advancing.

"We will continue next week as well," Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told reporters following talks in Athens with Greece's troika of creditors -- the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

"We hope there will be a positive presentation from the troika, the IMF, EU and ECB, at the eurogroup," he said. "We're trying to reach a compromise that will be in the interests of the economy and the poor."

Five consecutive years of recession have driven unemployment to record levels, gutted household incomes and led to repeated bouts of protest and unrest on the streets of the Greek capital.

New protests are expected on Tuesday when German Chancellor Angela Merkel will make her first visit to Greece since the euro zone debt crisis erupted in late 2009.

The trip represents a show of support for the government of conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and an apparent signal of the determination of Europe's most powerful leader to keep Greece within the euro.

Earlier on Saturday, a senior Greek government official said the sides will need another two weeks to agree on a pact on almost 12 billion euros of new savings to secure the next tranche of some 31.5 billion euros in urgently needed loans for the country.

Without it, Greece says it will run out of money at the end of November.

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