Greece suffering "merciless lashing," _ president

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's President Karolos Papoulias urged the country's creditors Tuesday to ease their demands for more austerity, claiming that the country has suffered a "merciless lashing"

"I think we have paid enough for our mistakes, and Europe must realize that it needs to help Greece," Papoulias told a delegation of visiting Canadian officials.

The debt-crippled country is struggling to come up with promised cuts worth €11.5 billion ($14.7 billion) for 2013-14, needed for continued rescue loan payments from eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund.

Greece has been surviving on emergency loans for more than two years, but the resulting economic austerity has triggered a dramatic rise in poverty and unemployment, with the jobless rate in June reaching 24.4 percent.

Inspectors from the IMF, European Union and European Central Bank continued negotiations Tuesday at the Labor Ministry — a meeting delayed by more than an hour after members of a Communist-backed trade union blocked the building's entrance.

A government spokesman refused to comment on reports by state television that the inspectors were pressing for a minimum wage freeze, and cuts in overtime and severance pay, describing the ongoing negotiations as "complex and multi-tiered."

Also Tuesday Greece's prime minister assured the head of the European Central Bank during talks in Frankfurt that his government was pushing to get its economy and finances back on track.

Antonis Samaras told reporters that the meeting Tuesday "went well" and that "things are developing."

State budget figures released Tuesday showed the deficit at €12.37 billion ($15.87 billion) for the first eight months of the year, beating revised targets, but with revenues remaining below estimates despite a barrage of tax hikes.

Papoulias, whose role is largely ceremonial, made his comments during a meeting with Canada's Senate speaker Noel Kinsella and senate opposition leader James S. Cowan.

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