ATHENS Greek leaders failed early yesterday to agree on reforms and austerity measures, the price of a bailout to avoid a messy default, forcing Finance minister Evangelos Venizelos to go to the countrys financial backers with an incomplete deal.
Athens partners in the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are increasingly exasperated by a lack of agreement on the measures they demand in return for a 130 billion ($172 billion) bailout and time is running out for Greece before a major March 20 bond redemption.
Eurozone officials say the full package must be agreed with Greece and approved by the EU, IMF and European Central Bank before February 15 so legal paperwork can be completed in time to avoid a chaotic default that could threaten global economic recovery.
But after all-night talks with leaders of the three parties in the Greek coalition and with chief EU and IMF inspectors, Venizelos emerged shortly before dawn to say one issue was unresolved.
I am leaving for Brussels in a short while with the hope that the Eurogroup meeting will be held, and a positive decision on the new programme will be taken, he told reporters.
The financial survival of the country in the coming years depends on the new programme . . . It is time of responsibility for everyone.
Venizelos had hoped to present to his fellow eurozone Finance ministers in Brussels a fully-fledged deal on a new bailout plan, including a commitment for 3,3 billion in budget cuts this year.
A spokesman for the socialist PASOK party said disagreement over pension reform had been the stumbling block.
International lenders are demanding party leaders commit themselves in writing to implement the programme of pay and pension cuts, structural and administrative reforms.
However, leaders have been loath to accept the lenders tough conditions, which are certain to be unpopular with voters. They face parliamentary elections possibly as early as April.
In these difficult hours we have to look after the ordinary people, the pensioners, conservative New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said after the political leaders meeting.