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Merkel, Hollande Call On Athens To Complete Reforms

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) and France's President Francois Hollande address the media before talks at the Chancellery in Berlin on August 23.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she will encourage Greece to pursue reforms promised as a precondition for receiving international bailout loans.

Speaking in Berlin on August 23 just before she began talks on the eurozone crisis with French President Francois Hollande, Merkel said Greece must keep to its commitments.

Hollande said it is up to Athens to make "indispensable efforts" to ensure it remains in the eurozone.

Merkel and Hollande's meeting comes ahead of their separate talks scheduled for August 24 and 25 with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

The meetings come as the Greek crisis is again reaching a critical juncture in the coming weeks.

Samaras wants four years -- instead of Athens' earlier promise of two years -- to implement reforms and spending cuts in return for continued access to a 240 billion euro bailout package.

More specifically, Athens must finalize 11.5 billion euro of spending cuts over the next two years.

The measures are a prerequisite for Greece receiving the next 33.5 billion euro installment under an international bailout loan package.

It was not immediately clear whether Samaras's request for a two-year extension would be accepted.

Merkel said on August 22 that no announcement would be made about a decision on Samaras's request this week.

Athens needs the loans to prevent a debt default and a possible forced exit from the euro currency -- a development that could trigger turmoil on world markets as investors scramble to protect their euro assets.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on August 23 that giving Greece more time to implement necessary structural reforms and austerity measures would not solve its severe problems.

Schaeuble said on German radio that "more time would, in case of doubt, mean more money." He argued that the eurozone has already gone to its limits to reach debt-reduction deals with Athens.

In Athens on August 22, eurozone chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Greece is staring at its "last chance" to avoid bankruptcy.

Greece remains stuck in recession, with successive rounds of austerity measures causing a further drag on the economy.

With reporting by AP, AFP, BBC, and Reuters
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