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Greek PM Tsipras tells IMF, Berlin to ease credit terms

There are conflicting reports about how much progress was made during the latest round of negotiations on Greece's debt. But the prime minister has warned that his country is already worn down by six years of austerity.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras warned the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Germany to "stop playing with fire" in the handling of his country's debt, saying Athens would not accept "illogical" demands from its lenders.

Tsipras warned them to "be more careful towards a country that has been pillaged and people who have made, and are continuing to make, so many sacrifices in the name of Europe."

During talks on Friday, Greece and its foreign lenders reportedly made progress toward bridging the divide over the country's fiscal path in the coming years with its international lenders, but considerable differences remain.

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The two sides are trying to hammer out new loan disbursements that would prevent the country from defaulting on its debt.

"(The review) will be completed, and it will be completed positively, without concessions in matters of principle," Tsipras told a meeting of his Syriza party.

The new agreement would release a new tranche from its 86 billion euro ($91.5 billion) bailout fund. That, in turn, would enable Greece to meet a major debt repayment of 7.2 billion euros that is due this summer.

EU and IMF lenders want Greece to make 1.8 billion euros - or 1 percent of gross domestic product - worth of new cuts by 2018 and another 1.8 billion euros after that on measures focused on broadening the tax base and on pension reductions.

Additional pension cuts

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New cuts - especially to pensions, which have already been reduced 11 times since the start of the crisis in 2010 - are difficult to sell to a public worn down by years of austerity.

Tsipras urged a change of course from the lenders. "We expect as soon as possible that the IMF revise its forecast ... so that discussions can continue at the technical level," he said.

Referring to Wolfgang Schäuble, Tsipras also called for German Chancellor Angela Merkel to "encourage her finance minister to end his permanent aggressiveness" toward Greece.

Months of feuding with the IMF has raised fears of a new debt crisis, rattled markets and revived concerns about Greece's place in the eurozone.    

Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said progress had been made in talks with Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and other EU and IMF officials.

But he provided few details.

Breaking the deadlock in the coming weeks is considered paramount, with elections in the Netherlands on March 15 and in France in the spring threatening to make a resolution even more difficult.

But Dijsselbloem warned that the next meeting of eurozone ministers on February 20, which is seen as an unofficial deadline ahead of the votes, would still be too early for a breakthrough.

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