Greek gov't fails to agree on spending cuts

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By DEMETRIS NELLAS, Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — The leaders of the three parties in Greece's coalition government failed to agree Sunday on a package of spending cuts worth €11.5 billion ($14.7 billion), a raft of measures the prime minister had said is crucial to restoring the country's financial credibility and sustaining its bailout funding.

Conservative Premier Antonis Samaras and the other two leaders — socialist Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis of the Democratic Left — disagreed on across-the-board cuts in pensions and wages. The latter two insisted that Greece's international creditors give the country more time to implement the spending cuts.

The three agreed to meet again Wednesday evening. Before that, Samaras will meet with the creditors' representatives on Monday and, on Tuesday, with European Central Bank president Mario Draghi, in Frankfurt.

"The talks were not conclusive. There is no final decision on the package...We need to protect the economically weak," Kouvelis, who left the meeting first, told reporters.

"We cannot exceed the (people's) limits of endurance. There are some measures we cannot agree on, such as across-the-board cuts in pensions and cuts in disability benefits," Venizelos said.

The two denied, however, that the governing coalition was shaky.

In the fifth year of a deep recession, Greece has seen its economy shrink by about 20 percent and the unemployment rate soar to 24.4 percent in June.

The cuts are required for the release of a long-delayed €31 billion ($39.7 billion) loan installment from the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, without which Greece would default on its loans.

Greece's creditors want the cuts to be implemented in 2013-14, while Venizelos has spoken of the need of their being spread out over at least two more years.

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