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Papademos holds last-ditch talks with party leaders

The leaders of the three parties in Greece?s coalition government began last-ditch talks with Prime Minister Lucas Papademos at a bout 3.30 p.m. on Sunday as they try to agree on a package of reforms that would secure further funding from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund.

Earlier, Papademos, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and Labor Minister Giorgos Koutroumanis met with troika representatives. The lenders? demands for the minimum wage to be lowered and private sector salaries to be cut drastically in a bid to boost Greece?s competitiveness are proving major stumbling blocks to achieving agreement on a new bailout package.

PASOK?s George Papandreou and New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras did not comment on their way into Maximos Mansion, where Papademos has his office.

Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) chief Giorgos Karatzaferis referred to a recent speech given by former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in which he was highly critical of the stance adopted by Germany and its leader, Angela Merkel, in respect to Greece?s problems and the euro crisis.

"There is great impatience and great pressure not only from the three institutions that make up the troika but also from euro zone member states,» said Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos on Saturday after what he called a «very difficult» conference call with euro zone counterparts.

"The moment is very crucial. Everything should be concluded by tomorrow night."

Athens has wrangled without success for weeks with lenders and private bondholders on the bailout package and a debt restructuring plan, putting itself dangerously close to bankruptcy as 14.5 billion euros of debt falls due in mid-March.

In an apparent warning to Greek political leaders opposing key reforms, Venizelos said the patience of European partners and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) footing the bill for Greece's bailout was wearing thin.

Eurozone finance ministers told Greece on Saturday it could not go ahead with an agreed deal to restructure privately held debt until it guaranteed it would implement reforms needed to secure a second financing package from the euro zone and the IMF.

[Kathimerini English Edition

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