Greece pays IMF debt; leader notes steps taken toward deal

Author: Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greece completed a 757 million-euro ($844 million) debt payment to the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday despite a cash shortage in government coffers in Athens.

Greece’s government has taken as “many steps as possible” toward reaching an agreement with bailout lenders, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said, despite renewed calls from creditors for tough reforms.

The radical left Syriza-led government, elected in January, is locked in slow-moving bailout negotiations with international creditors and is seeking the release of stalled rescue loan money as state coffers run low.

The cash crisis is expected to come to a head in the next few weeks, with more IMF repayments looming in June. The government has already ordered local authorities, universities and hospitals to put their reserves in the central bank to help ease the cash crunch.

“It is now the turn of our (European) partners to take the steps needed,” Tsipras told ministers during a five-hour cabinet meeting to discuss the debt negotiations.

Athens is under pressure to liberalize labor markets further and reduce high state funding for pensions – moves it has promised to resist.

“We must protect workers and pensioners, and protect working families whose (income) has been looted for the past five years by ineffective austerity measures under the bailout agreements,” Tsipras said.

At a meeting in Brussels on Monday, Eurozone finance ministers said they were still expecting more detailed proposals from Athens. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble argued that the atmosphere had improved in negotiations but little had changed in substance.

Shares on the Athens Stock Exchange closed up 1.37 percent amid broader losses in Europe, while Greek borrowing rates, which have spiked in recent months, remained mostly unchanged.

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