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Greek Austerity Talks Fall Short Ahead of Eurozone Meeting

No agreement on austerity measures yet for Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos
Greek politicians have so far failed to reach a final agreement on the reforms needed to receive a crucial 130-billion-euro international bailout to prevent the country from going bankrupt.

After the failure of talks early on February 9, Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos traveled to Brussels, where eurozone finance ministers were due to meet to discuss the Greek bailout.

In their talks, Greece’s ruling coalition reached an agreement to approve new austerity measures -- but failed to finalize an agreement on creditors' demands for pension cuts worth 300 million euros.

'Negotiations Will Continue'

Venizelos indicated that he was optimistic about the outcome of his talks in Brussels, with a deal potentially in reach.

"I'm leaving for Brussels in a short while with the hope that the Eurogroup meeting will be held and a positive decision on the new [bailout] program will be made," he said shortly before departing.

Conservative leader Antonis Samaras, whose party is one of the coalition government's backers maintained on February 9 that "negotiations will continue."

"There is still one issue," he said. "This is the issue of pensions. During these difficult hours we have to think about the common people, the pensioners. I have an obligation to do this. I have an obligation to negotiate hard. And I am not concerned if some people misunderstand my position."

It was not clear when Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos would meet again with his coalition backers --Samaras, socialist George Papandreou, and George Karatzaferis, leader of the rightist LAOS party.

Troika Talks

Following the coalition talks, Papademos was reported on February 9 to have gone directly into a meeting with officials of the so-called troika of Greek creditors - the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

The troika has been demanding more cuts to wages, pensions and state employment in exchange for the new bailout.

Greece has been kept solvent since May 2010 by payments from a 110 billion euro international rescue loan package.

When it became clear that money would not be enough, a second bailout was decided upon last October.

Two years of harsh austerity measures have made Greek voters increasingly hostile.

According to opinion polls, some 90 percent of Greeks believe the coalition government is taking the country in the "wrong direction."

The proposed austerity measures brought the country to a standstill on February 7, when unions launched a strike.

Greece could default next month if a deal is not reached.

Compiled from agency reports

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