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Business

Greek talks on budget cuts end without agreement

Coalition talks in Greece on additional spending cuts have failed to produce tangible results this week. While Prime Minister Antonis Samaras speaks about marginal outstanding issues, his partners don't agree at all.

Negotiations between Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his coalition partners on an extended austerity program on Wednesday failed to make any decisive progress. But the premier argued there were no insurmountable problems ahead.

"There are one or two marginal issues that still need to be discussed, but it's all about technical stuff," Finance Minister Ioannis Stournaras told reporters in Athens after two hours of talks. He was confident that additional spending cuts could be approved by the parties next week.

More cuts to the tune of 11.5 billion euros ($14.4 billion) are required for Greece to receive a second package of emergency loans from international lenders.

Irreconcilable positions?

But the Socialists and Democratic Left are still opposing wage cuts and reductions in pensions of low-income earners as part of the austerity drive. The head of the Democratic Left, Fotis Kouvelis, also said planned cuts in local council funds would bring municipal services close to collapse.

"Major cuts to local council funds are unacceptable," Kouvelis said in a statement as council staff in Athens began a two-day strike on Wednesday.

A spending cuts agreement, whatever its form, will need approval from the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Union and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Inspectors from the troika of international lenders are due to begin assessing Greece's reform progress on September 5.

hg/msh (AFP, dpa)