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Creditors to iron out differences with Greek prime minister

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Greece's international creditors will meet with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Tuesday in an attempt to iron out differences on reform measures required to open access to scheduled loans.

"The prime minister will meet the creditor representatives at 1500 GMT," Samaras' office said.

Senior representatives from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank have been conducting a regular audit of Greece's austerity reforms since the beginning of March.

The talks -- mainly focused on civil service job cuts -- will determine whether Athens will claim a loan slice of 2.8 billion euros ($3.6 billion) due at the end of March.

Conservative Samaras is under pressure from his coalition partners -- the socialists and moderate leftists -- to alleviate the tax burden on a nation groaning under a fourth year of austerity and a sixth year of recession.

After a meeting between the so-called troika and ministers on Monday, state agency ANA said an agreement had been reached on the issue of citizens' debt repayments to social security funds and banks, and on the mobility of civil servants.

But talks were still ongoing over payment of debts to the state and the reform of the tax-collection mechanism, ANA said.

Under the terms of its EU-IMF bailout, Greece must also speed up privatisation plans and recapitalising four of its main banks.

Samaras will also meet on Tuesday with the chief executive of Gazprom, Alexei Miller, to discuss the planned sale of Greek gas distributor DEPA.

Over the weekend, Greece's privatisation chief and the finance ministry general secretary stepped down over an investigation into alleged breach of duty at the country's main power group PPC where both were previously members of the board.

The blow came as the troubled Greek privatisation drive was beginning to hit a stride after years of delays.

Under the bailout conditions adopted last year, Greece needs to cut public sector workers by 25,000 in 2013 and a total of 150,000 by the end of 2015.

The heavily indebted country has been relying on international rescue packages to avoid bankruptcy.

A return to growth initially foreseen for 2012 is now not expected before 2014.

Since 2010 the EU and the IMF have committed 240 billion euros ($312 billion) overall in rescue loans to Greece.

The prime minister on Saturday promised his recession-weary nation that there would be no more belt tightening beyond that already agreed with creditors.

"There will be no more austerity measures," Samaras said in a televised speech to his conservative party's political committee.

"And as soon as growth sets in, relief measures will slowly begin," Samaras said.

But he noted that Greece's ailing economy was "out of intensive care, not out of the hospital".

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130312/creditors-iron-out-differences-greek-prime-minister