Troika puts more pressure on government

With his government coming under increasing pressure from its international lenders, Prime Minister George Papandreou is planning to travel abroad next week with a view to meeting French President Nicolas Sarkozy and possibly German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Government sources revealed on Thursday that Papandreou will be in Paris on Wednesday for a meeting of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which will be celebrating 50 years since its inauguration. Papandreou hopes to hold talks with Sarkozy on the sidelines of this meeting.

Sources said that the Greek premier is also seeking a meeting with Merkel, who earlier this week suggested that people in Greece had to retire later and take fewer holidays if Germany was to continue to participate in bailout packages.

Her comments came at a time when Athens is being pressured by the European Commission (much to the chagrin of government and opposition politicians, Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn called for political consensus in Greece to help push reforms through), the European Central Bank (which said it would stop accepting Greek bonds as collateral if the country restructures its debt) and its eurozone partners (the head of the group, Luxembourg?s Jean-Claude Juncker, warned on Thursday that there are limits to solidarity).

The International Monetary Fund added to this pressure through its chief of mission in Greece, Poul Thomsen, who on Thursday informed the government that the latest inspection by the troika, which includes ECB and Commission representatives, would be suspended. Sources said the troika officials told Athens that there was no point in continuing until the government has drawn up further austerity measures and gets the ball rolling on the sale of state assets.

?There is a need for further technical work,? Commission spokesman for economic and monetary affairs Amadeu Altafaj Tardio told Kathimerini.

Greece is expecting the fifth installment of its loan package, which will amount to 12 billion euros, next month but the troika has made it clear that Athens will have to speed up its work before then. The much-delayed midterm fiscal plan is due to be discussed during a cabinet meeting at the beginning of next week.

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