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Greece seeking bailout talks breakthrough by Sunday

Associated Press logo Associated Press 27/04/2017 By DEREK GATOPOULOS and LORNE COOK, Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece — Greece and its bailout creditors are closing in on a deal to restart rescue loan payouts, senior officials from the two sides said Thursday, a compromise that is likely to prolong years of hardship for many Greeks.

A spokesman for the Greek government said a breakthrough was possible by this Sunday, with a vote in parliament on a fresh round of spending cuts expected by mid-May.

"What remains to be done is to find common ground on a series of technical details," spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told Greek state television.

Bailout inspectors from International Monetary Fund and European Union institutions return to Athens this week to finalize the months-delayed talks.

Greece has to meet a series of targets to get the money it needs to avoid bankruptcy.

Athens has now agreed to more sweeping pension cuts and income tax hikes after the current bailout program ends next year, but insists it resisted pressure for drastic labor reforms and secured permission to offset the cuts with additional benefits for low-income Greeks.

"In a negotiation, everyone moves to the middle ground," Tzanakopoulos said. "We made concessions. The Europeans made concessions. And the IMF made concessions."

European officials shared some of the optimism.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chairs meetings of the Eurozone's 19 finance ministers, said he hoped to report "the successful conclusion of the second review before the end of next month."

He told EU lawmakers that progress would allow the International Monetary Fund to participate "financially" in the Greek bailout program.

EU Economy Commissioner Pierre Moscovici was also optimistic about an agreement that would "then pave the way for the disbursement of funds."

Eurozone finance ministers meet on May 22 to assess Greece's progress.

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Cook reported from Brussels. Follow Gatopoulos at http://www.twitter.com/dgatopoulos

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