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Greece denies breaking bailout rules

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(ATHENS) - Greece denied Thursday that it had broken the rules of its EU-IMF bailout deal by taking on some 70,000 public-sector staff in two years, as a Greek newspaper had reported at the weekend.

"Restrictions in effect have been faithfully observed," the administrative reform ministry said, in the government's first response to the article in Sunday weekly To Vima, which had been widely picked up in the European press.

A spokeswoman in the ministry said the newspaper had gotten the figures wrong.

"Greece never broke the agreement," she told AFP.

"They are talking of about 70,000 recruitment and it's only around 20,000" for 2010 and 2011 combined, she said.

Under the bailout agreement, Greece promised to hire only one civil servant for every five that leave, later changed to one for every 10.

But the government hired more than 16,000 staff in 2011, though only 40,000 left, To Vima said.

In all, Greece took on about 70,000 public sector staff in the two years combined, it reported, citing data given by outgoing finance minister George Zannias and a report from the so-called "troika" of international creditors: the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank.

The ministry admitted the government had gone over the recruitment allotment for 2011 by 1,057 employees, but blamed the excess on the change in the hiring-to-departure ratio in the middle of the year.

"The total number of permanent employees who were hired in the public sector during 2011 amounted to 9,057, a figure which is obviously far removed from the data that was reported in the press," it said in a statement.

"There was an excess in the maximum number allowed for recruitment, by 1,057.

"The troika was informed in a timely manner... and it was agreed this slight excess would be estimated as a reduction in regular staff recruitment" in 2012, it said, adding that the new recruits were mainly for the defence, health, justice, education and police ministries.

The ministry also said the troika report referred to in the newspaper article was only a draft.

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