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Greece nears deal for next slice of EU-IMF rescue funds

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Greece is close to a deal with its international creditors over thousands of job cuts needed for the debt-laden nation to receive the next tranche of bailout funds worth 8.1 billion euros ($10.4 billion), officials said Sunday.

"Very important progress was made," a finance ministry official said late on Saturday after several hours of talks with representatives from the "troika" -- the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the state-run Athens News Agency reported.

Another official from the administrative reform ministry told reporters: "We are in agreement, no new meeting is required" on a dispute over thousands of civil service layoffs.

Greece needs to come to an agreement on the next package of reforms with the troika before Monday -- when the Eurogroup meets to decide if the bloc should release the next instalment of rescue funds worth 6.3 billion euros.

The IMF is also scheduled to decide by the end of July whether to disburse its scheduled contribution of 1.8 billion euros to the bailout kitty.

The funds are necessary as Greece must redeem three-month and six-month debt worth 6.6 billion euros by mid-August.

Among reforms being negotiated are 4,000 state jobs, which would have to go by the end of the year, a pledge which had been made by Athens.

Greece must also redeploy 25,000 civil servants across its vast bureaucracy. These include some 2,000 teachers, whom Athens has proposed to move to other services.

Another 3,500 local police are to be incorporated in the national forces, a proposed move that has sparked strong opposition from local administration staff.

"The so-called negotiations once again result in new measures for layoffs, school and hospital shutdowns, taxes and wage cuts," the main opposition Syriza party said in a statement.

Local police have gone on strike until Tuesday over their redeployment which they say is unconstitutional.

"Now even permanent staff are being fired," said union chief for Athens city staff, Vassilis Polymeropoulos, citing speculation that up to 30 percent of municipal police will be axed.

The latest cuts will be enshrined in a new multi-purpose law that will be tabled in parliament on Monday.

Since 2010, the EU and IMF have committed a total of 240 billion euros to the heavily indebted country.

In exchange for the funds, Greece has agreed to a series of reforms including a commitment to raise revenues by offloading state assets.

But the government has been forced to once again scale back the expected revenues from its privatisation drive for this year to 1.6 billion euros from 2.6 billion euros earlier forecasted.

The missing billion is to be rolled over to 2014, an official told ANA.

Athens had failed in June to sell Greece's gas distributor DEPA after Russian giant Gazprom pulled out of the bidding process.

Greece has pledged to raise 9.5 billion euros in asset sales by 2016, just under a fifth of the original target of 50 billion euros.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130707/greece-nears-deal-next-slice-eu-imf-rescue-funds