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Creditors resume Greek audit after month's pause

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(ATHENS) - Greece and its international creditors on Wednesday resumed a reforms audit complicated by disagreement over budgetary goals and a controversial pension reform.

Talks with Greek ministers were expected to focus on Greece's pledge to register a primary budget surplus of 3.5 percent in 2018.

Athens is also under pressure to address the large number of non-performing loans burdening Greek banks and to push forward with a pension and tax overhaul resisted by farmers and white-collar staff.

Senior representatives from the European Union, the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European bailout fund had completed a first round of talks in early February.

The Greek government has attributed the month-long pause to disagreement among the creditors, with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras over the weekend accusing the IMF of stalling.

"The review will be completed soon in spite of the IMF's stalling tactics," Tsipras told his party's central committee, adding that the global lender had "unrealistic expectations" that failed to take into account the improved showing of Greece's economy.

The Greek economy in 2015 saw output fall by just 0.2 percent, after an August forecast of a drop of up to 2.0 percent, the government said.

Athens also closed the year with a small primary surplus instead of an expected primary deficit, Tsipras said.

Athens is eager to complete the reforms review to unlock debt relief promised by its European peers.

In July, Greece accepted a three-year, 86-billion-euro ($94 billion) European Union bailout that saved it from crashing out of the eurozone. But the bailout came with strict conditions such as fresh tax cuts and pay cuts.

The IMF worked with the EU on two previous bailouts for Greece since 2010 but the Washington-based lender said it would not participate in the third rescue plan without credible reforms and an EU agreement to ease Greece's debt burden.


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