Sun, Dec 01, 2013 - Page 13 News List

EU inspectors postpone trip to Greece next week

AP, ATHENS

Bailout inspectors postponed a trip to Athens next week, as government officials acknowledged key issues remained unresolved in negotiations needed for future rescue loan payouts.

Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said on Friday that inspectors from the “troika” of the EU, European Central Bank and IMF would likely travel to Greece the following week.

“We still have not reached an agreement today on several issues... The aim is to have this concluded by the end of the year,” he said.

Greece and rescue lenders remain at odds over austerity measures needed to cover a gap in next year’s budget, and the course of various long-term reforms including mass public sector job cuts.

The government is also resisting troika pressure to lift blanket protection measures for distressed home loans.

“The government has made a commitment that the homes of the poor or people in economic difficulty will not be endangered,” Development Deputy Minister Athanasios Skordas told private Mega television.

“Clearly there is no agreement on this issue. I think everyone understands that. The [troika] has moved some distance from their initial and absolute position, but not as far as we would like,” he added.

Meanwhile, state hospitals were operating with emergency staff on Friday as doctors and staff held a 24-hour strike against planned health cuts under the country’s harsh austerity program.

Strikers held a protest outside the

Greek Health Ministry building in central Athens, and about 2,500 people marched peacefully to Parliament.

Demonstrators included doctors from the state primary health care system — who have extended a strike launched on Tuesday until Dec. 9 — as well as residents of Aegean Sea islands who say reforms will deplete local health services.

Health unions are angry at the conservative-led government’s plans to suspend and reallocate staff as part of its drive to reform the public sector and reduce the budget deficit.

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