Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said his country's left-wing government is "very close" to reaching a deal with bailout lenders. He has insisted, however, that he will not back down from refusing further cuts.
Tsipras, who earlier this week marked 100 days in office, is currently seeking a deal with lenders to release a final 7.2 billion euros ($8.3 billion) in bailout funds - money which would be crucial to Greece if the country is to avoid a summer default on loan payments.
Athens' paymasters - the European Central Bank (ECB), the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) - however, have said they will only provide the funds if the Greek government pushes through the necessary reforms.
'Issues remain open'
Speaking at conference in Athens late on Friday, Tsipras said it appeared he had reached "common ground" with lenders on a number of issues.
"That makes us optimistic that we are really very close to an agreement," Tsipras said.
Despite reaching agreement with lenders on harmonized sales tax rates and tax administration reforms, Tsipras said that several issues remained open.
"I want to reassure the Greek people that there is no chance or possibility for the Greek government to retreat on the issue of wages and pensions," Tsipras told the conference.
"Wage earners and pensioners have suffered enough," he said.
The Greek PM hopes to have finalized the deal by the end of May.
Drain on bank deposits
The ongoing dispute between Athens and lenders has already caused Greece to slide back into mild recession. As a result, the country is currently faced with a troubling drain on its bank deposits and a string of ratings downgrades.
Ahead of Tsipras' comments on Friday, Canada-based DBRS became the latest agency to downgrade Greece's sovereign rating from B to CCC, with a negative outlook.
Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis wants the ECB to agree for Athens to delay payment on some 27 billion euros ($30.9 billion) in Greek bonds it will otherwise be unable to repay. 6.7 billion of that is due to be repaid in July and August.
ksb/jr (Reuters, AP)