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'Greece suffering merciless lashing'

Wednesday, September 12, 2012    

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ATHENS, Greece - GREECE'S President Karolos Papoulias urged rescue creditors to ease demands for more austerity yesterday, as debt inspectors reportedly pressed the government for tougher concessions on benefits and labour rights.

"Up until now, we've been receiving a merciless lashing," Papoulias told a delegation of visiting Canadian officials. "I think we have paid enough for our mistakes, and Europe must realise that it needs to help Greece."

The debt-crippled country is struggling to come up with promised cuts worth (euro) 11.5 billion ($1.3 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 per cent.

Inspectors from the IMF, European Union and European Central Bank continued negotiations yesterday at the Labour 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".

State budget figures released Thursday showed the deficit at (euro) 12.37 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 the comments during a meeting with Canadian Senate Speaker Noel Kinsella and Senate Opposition Leader James S Cowan.

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