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Greece gunning for weekend deal with EU-IMF creditors

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(ATHENS) - Greece was gunning for a weekend deal with its EU-IMF creditors on a lingering reform audit that has held up billions of euros in loans since last year, an official said on Friday.

"The goal is to reach an accord by Sunday," the finance ministry official told AFP.

"We have begun looking at a revised text of agreement with the aim of wrapping this up as soon as possible," Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told reporters late on Thursday.

The latest talks on Greece's four-year bailout programme began in September, and have been held up by disputes on several fronts including market liberalisation and further civil service layoffs.

The quarterly EU-IMF audits determine whether or not Greece receives the next instalment of rescue funding.

Loan payments to Greece worth some 8.5 billion euros are pending.

There is also disagreement on how Greece should spend its first primary budget surplus in years -- namely, a budget surplus not counting debt servicing costs.

Greece wants to divert most of the surplus, estimated at over 1.5 billion euros, to low-income pensioners, police and army officers.

European officials have begun to voice exasperation at the protracted talks.

"We will not force someone to accept financial aid, if they do not want to do so," German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told Greek TV station Mega this week.

Hard hit by the economic crisis, Greece is experiencing a sixth year of continuous recession and has a staggering 28 percent unemployment rate.

The so-called 'troika' of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund first bailed out Greece in 2010 with a programme worth 110 billion euros ($153 billion).

When that failed to stabilise the economy, they agreed a much tougher second rescue in 2012 worth 130 billion euros, plus a private sector debt write-off of more than 100 billion euros.

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