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Greek PM seeks to convince creditors of austerity plan

The head of Greece’s government has held crucial talks in Athens with representatives of the international lenders that are funding the country’s financial bailout packages.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras met the delegates from the so-called "troika" on Monday and sought to convince them that his government was living up to its commitments to financial reform made under a second financial rescue package.

Samaras' pitch could be crucial to Greece receiving the latest tranche of bailout money, which would allow the country to remain solvent. The troika is made up of inspectors from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

But Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said that although "efforts are continuing to come up with a package of measures," the negotiations had been tough.

"It's a difficult position," Stournaras told reporters after the meeting. "We are trying to convince them of the soundness of our positions."

The meeting came a day after the news emerged that the troika had objected to part of a plan presented by Stournaras, which would cut public spending by 11.5 billion euros ($14.7 billion) over the next two years.

"The troika has not accepted all the measures, but we have alternative proposals," said Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, whose party is one of three that makes up the coalition government.

Two sides far apart

Reports published by Greek media outlets on Monday indicated that the troika was prepared to sign off on proposals making up 5.5 billion euros in savings, but were seeking clarification on the details of the rest of the measures.

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The troika was also reported to be demanding that the government lay off more public sector staff than originally planned.

Samaras and his government are already under pressure from the voters, particularly those directly affected by the austerity measures implemented so far.

Around 15,000 trade unionists marched at an annual fair in Thessaloniki on Saturday to protest against the cuts. Among the groups planning future protests were policemen and judicial staff, as well as old-age pensioners.

pfd/kms, ipj (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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