NEWS

Greek leaders yet to seal last of cuts, to meet again next week

Greece?s coalition leaders are due to meet again next week to discuss the new austerity package of 11.5 billion euros after it emerged that some 2 billion euros remain to be agreed.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras met with PASOK?s Evangelos Venizelos and Democratic Left?s Fotis Kouvelis on Thursday afternoon to discuss the measures.

They were joined by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and Labor Minister Yiannis Vroutsis. The latter?s presence was taken as an indication that there could be more reductions to wages, pensions and benefits than originally planned.

Stournaras remained tight-lipped about the content of the discussion when he emerged from the premier?s office. He suggested that the coalition is attempting to avoid further cuts to wages and pensions by convincing its lenders that savings can be made through structural changes in the public sector.

?It?s a very difficult negotiation and we are trying to convince the troika to accept reform measures,? he said. ?I think the measures will be sealed soon.?

Stournaras indicated that the part of the savings that has yet to be agreed relates to an overhaul of the public administration. Reports suggest that this amounts to some 2 billion euros.

?We are doing our best to lighten the social cost of the measures, especially on more vulnerable groups,? said Stournaras.

Upon leaving the meeting, Kouvelis called on the troika to soften its demands.

?The negotiations are continuing,? he said. ?Those that rushed to say that the package had been agreed were wrong.

?The troika must stop attacking Greek society, which has certain limits.?

The Democratic Left leader said there would be a new leaders? meeting next week. Greece had been hoping to conclude its negotiations with the troika by Sunday but it is not clear if this will still be possible.

Socialist PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos, for his part, said would do everything possible to ensure that the package of measures are finalized without delay but stressed that «this has to be the last package,» adding that «it must be fair and just, not horizontal in nature.» He also reiterated calls for a two-year extension to Greece's fiscal adjustment period. The socialist leader also lashed out at the troika's stance in talks, remarking that: «The Greek people have made too many sacrifices and are to proud to be treated patronizingly."

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