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Eurogroup president says 'time running out' for Greece

Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem says Athens must move faster with economic reforms plans to receive vital new loans. Without them, Greece may be forced to leave the eurozone.

Speaking at the end of a meeting of the eurozone's 19 finance minister in the Latvian capital, Riga, Dijsselbloem said there were still "wide differences" between Athens and its international creditors on fulfilling conditions for receiving the remaining 7.2 billion euros ($7.8 billion) from an existing 240-billion-euro bailout.

He stressed that the funds could be unlocked only if the Greek government made "significantly more progress" on economic reform plans acceptable to its creditors.

With the end of April set as a deadline for submission of the list, Dijsselbloem said time was running out to secure the money, which Greece needs to avoid bankruptcy and a possible exit from the eurozone.

He also dismissed suggestions that the creditors might envisage a "half-way" deal granting Greece at least part of the 7.2 billion euros.

The European Union's top financial official, Pierre Moscovici, also called for efforts to "be sped up," saying the two sides were still far from a deal despite some progress having been made.

Greece: 'We see is convergence'

Yanis Varoufakis

Varoufakis remains optimistic

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis was more upbeat in his assessment of the situation, insisting that a deal "will happen and will happen quickly, as it's the only option we have."

He said much progress had been made on reforms demanded by creditors, such as privatization, revamping the taxation system and paring back bureaucracy.

"We look at the last weeks and what we see is convergence," he said.

He said the main sticking points related to pensions and the budget surplus that Athens is required to produce after the deduction of debt and interest payments.

The leftist government in Greece under Prime Minister Alexander Tsipras came to power in January after campaigning on an anti-austerity platform, and has so far shown reluctance to cut pensions or liberalize the labor market as called for by the creditors.

tj/sms (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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