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Greece postpones reform deal with creditors: finance minister

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Greece on Wednesday postponed a reform deal with its international creditors as a number of issues "remained open" after nearly two weeks of talks, its finance minister said.

"Very important progress was achieved on all issues. Because there are a lot of issues, some technical matters remain open," Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told reporters.

"They will be concluded when the (auditor) mission returns soon... towards the end of the month or early April," Stournaras 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 so-called troika representatives will depart Greece on Thursday, Stournaras said.

"We are close on all issues," the minister said. "They will return in a few days so we can be ready."

The talks -- mainly focused on civil service job cuts -- will determine whether Athens will claim a loan slice of 2.8 billion euros ($3.7 billion) due at the end of March.

Conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has come 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.

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.

Greece must also speed up privatisation plans and recapitalise four of its main banks.

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/130313/greece-postpones-reform-deal-creditors-finance-minister