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Foreign officials eye Greece deal on Monday

French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici appeared confident on Thursday that a deal on Greek debt would be reached on Monday.

“It is fundamental that this country, which has made so many efforts, have the solidarity of its European partners, while respecting the public finances of our states,” he said.

Moscovici's statements echoed earlier comments by Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for economic affairs, who told the European Parliament that Greece has taken all the steps necessary to secure its next tranche of aid and eurozone finance ministers should be able to sign off definitively on the assistance on Monday

“I trust everyone will reconvene in Brussels on Monday with the necessary constructive spirit, and move beyond the detrimental mindset of red lines,” Rehn said.

“Frankly, I see no reason why we should not be able to conclude the package - and do away with the uncertainty that has been holding back a return of confidence, and thus of investment and growth, in Greece,” he added.

Finance ministers have met twice in the past two weeks but failed both times to agree on the next steps for Greece and how to bring its debt level down to a sustainable level, despite more than 24 hours of negotiation.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, asked if he was worried about the non-payment of the aid tranche so far, on Thursday told reporters in Brussels:

“No, I don't have any worries but every day that goes by without a decision will burden the economy, its psychology, its markets and citizens and Greeks' pride.”

“I will not let the Greek people's sacrifices go to waste, you can be sure of that,” said Samaras, who was in Brussels for an EU budget summit.

Greece's issues were expected to be discussed on the sidelines of the summit.

Meanwhile, Greek municipal workers occupied hundreds of town halls across the country for a fifth day on Thursday to protest against public sector layoffs demanded by the troika of foreign lenders.

Greece has promised to revamp its bloated public sector by putting as many as 27,000 workers into a layoff scheme. City and local workers are expected to be among the first to be laid off under the plan.

Their protests have intensified since the Greek government passed a package of austerity measures earlier this month, with workers this week staging daily sit-ins at more than two thirds of the country's 330 city halls and several ministries.

The sit-ins and work stoppages have disrupted public services and left garbage piling up in some districts of Athens.

About 3,000 municipal workers marched in central Athens on Thursday chanting “Their measures - our funeral” and holding black balloons. They carried a coffin and three wreaths in a symbolic protest against what they called the “the elimination of the public sector.” [Combined reports]

ekathimerini.com , Thursday November 22, 2012 (15:23)  
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