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September 22, 2017

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Greek deputy minister resigns over bailout stance

ATHENS--Greece's deputy labor minister resigned on Monday saying the government was not being aggressive enough in pushing for changes to an unpopular bailout, becoming the third cabinet member to quit the fledgling coalition in as many weeks.

The resignation is a new setback for Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, whose government had already stumbled to a rocky start when his initial pick for finance minister resigned over health problems.

"The sole reason for my resignation is my personal conviction that the issue of renegotiating with the troika, as well as the correction of significant distortions in labor, pension, social security and welfare issues, should have been emphatically put on the table from the start," Nikos Nikolopoulos wrote in his resignation letter.

Analysts said the resignation suggested internal rifts were emerging over the coalition's stance on renegotiating the bailout with the three lenders — the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The government initially demanded numerous changes to the rescue package when it took power last month, but has struck a more conciliatory tone in recent days as it faces the prospect of running out of cash without more aid.

"It is an indication that the government will face internal problems between groups pushing for a 'hard' and 'soft' stance towards the troika and the terms of the bailout," said Theodore Couloumbis, political analyst at Athens-based think tank ELIAMEP.

The resignation came hours after Samaras won a confidence vote in parliament and pledged to win back the trust of foreign lenders by pushing ahead on privatizations and long-discussed structural reforms. All 179 deputies from the three-party coalition, including Nikolopoulos, backed the motion in the 300-seat parliament.

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