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June 24, 2017

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Greek gov't wins time extension from creditors: finance minister

ATHENS--Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said Wednesday he has agreed a new multibillion-euro austerity package with the debt-crippled nation's international creditors and secured a long-sought extension to meet its fiscal targets.

Stournaras told parliament the extra time was agreed in return for the 13.5-billion-euro (US$17.5 billion) austerity deal that is necessary to unlock vital international loans but which still has to win the backing of all coalition partners.

"We have obtained the extension," Stournaras said, shortly after telling reporters that he had finalized the cutbacks agreement in talks with auditors from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank.

He said he will present two draft laws related to the package to parliament next week.

But the new measures, to be voted by Nov. 12, still have to be approved by Greece's three-party coalition government, with key allies still split over the painful reforms.

Details of the deal were not yet known and there was no confirmation from the creditors.

German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Greek media had reported that Athens would be given two more years to slash its public debt mountain as well as implement key labour reforms and privatizations.

A finance ministry source had said earlier that the government hoped to present the deal to a euro working group meeting on Thursday, ending a negotiation that has dragged on since July.

Greece, heading for a sixth straight year of recession, is desperately trying to unlock a new installment of loans worth 31.2 billion euros from the troika of lenders.

In exchange, Athens has to agree to tough economic reforms but the measures are deeply unpopular among ordinary Greeks who have taken to the streets in sometimes violent protests.

With unemployment topping 25 percent, the government has been pleading for more time to implement the austerity measures.

According to media reports, Athens will be given up to 2016 to cut its deficit to the EU limit of 3 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) rather than the previous deadline of 2014.

The reported agreement also scales back targeted privatization revenue to 10 billion euros by 2016 — effectively 9 billion less over an extra year.

But it expects a two-year rise in the statutory retirement age and new cuts to state salaries and pensions, the reports said.

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