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Greece, troika agreement to be delayed

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(ATHENS) - A deal between Athens and its international creditors, necessary to unlock bailout loans, will be delayed, the Greek finance minister said on Friday.

Senior auditors from the so-called creditor troika -- the EU, IMF and European Central Bank -- had been expected to return in Athens on Monday to resume an evaluation of pledged Greek reforms.

But Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras told reporters on Friday: "We have still to reach an agreement... we aim to finish this by the end of the year."

Lower-level "technical teams" will resume talks in Athens on Monday and the mission chiefs will return after a Eurogroup meeting on December 9, Stournaras said.

An agreement with the troika is necessary to unblock a one-billion-euro ($1.4 billion) instalment of financial aid pending since June.

Athens is also keen to wrap the talks before it assumes the rotating EU presidency in January.

The so-called troika of EU, IMF and European Central Bank creditors and Athens disagree on the level of a forecasted financing gap for 2014 and the measures that need to be taken to cover it.

The troika launched its regular audit at the end of September and talks then resumed in early November before another break last week.

The troika predicts the 2014 financing gap will exceed 1.5 billion euros, while the Greek government estimates the sum to be slightly more than 500 million euros.

Discussions are reportedly stumbling on the issue of a new property tax, debtor property auctions, layoffs in the state sector and the slow pace of privatisation.

Stournaras said the negotiations were over "two, three structural issues, less so on fiscal issues."

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