Reuters

(Reuters)

Greek Debt Talks Hit Another Snag

Europe Reuters

Eurozone finance ministers are checking whether a document prepared by Greece and the institutions overseeing its bailout is acceptable, Austria's finance minister said Thursday, warning that the process of working out a deal was rapidly getting more difficult.

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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras remained firm on the proposals it has submitted earlier this week, a senior Greek government official said, following his meeting with the heads of the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank.

"Greece's proposals are a realistic approach for an immediate solution," the official said following the meeting.

The meeting was part of an effort to clinch a last-minute agreement after talks sputtered the night before amid divisions over pension cuts and other conditions.

"If this document isn't acceptable today for the finance ministers then we will have to start thinking about alternatives," Hans Joerg Schelling said. He declined to say what such alternatives could look like.

Without a new aid tranche from its €245 billion bailout, Greece won't be able to make a €1.54 billion payment to the International Monetary Fund on June 30, opening the possibility of a default and possible messy exit from the eurozone.

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Mr. Schelling said that the last moment for a deal between Greece and its creditors would be Sunday, but that he was pushing for an agreement Thursday.

"I am as always optimistic that there will be an agreement, but it's getting more difficult by the minute," he said.

The finance ministers called off a key meeting late Wednesday, sending Mr. Tsipras back to work out budget cuts and policy overhauls with the institutions. The ministers will meet later Thursday with the final proposal in hand.

The Stoxx Europe 600 slipped in early trade, but was flat midmorning. Athens main stock index was around 0.7% higher. It ended Wednesday's session 1.8% lower and remains over 4.5% lower so far in June.

A document seen by The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday showed still-major disputes between Greece and its creditors on how Athens can best return to financial health and reduce a debt load of close to 180% of gross domestic product.

Greece's creditors call for reducing Athens's proposed tax increases on businesses and doubling defense-spending cuts. The marked changes also call for raising more from sales taxes and cutting into pension benefits rather than relying mostly on increased contributions.

Mr. Tsipras has attacked the creditors' demands, arguing that as long as Greece introduces measures that reach deficit targets it shouldn't matter how it gets there.

Negotiators have little time to bridge the differences. The Greek Parliament would have to pass these measures—likely as soon as this weekend—before any new tranches of aid would be sent to Athens.

Expectations had been growing that aid would be unlocked this week, after Greece sent new proposals to Brussels on Monday that brought it much closer to the creditors' demands.

Daily bank deposit outflows in Greece have slowed in recent days after exceeding the €1 billion mark late last week. The European Central Bank left unchanged the limit on emergency lending provided to Greek banks, a person familiar with the matter said Thursday.

Greek banks need the program run by the country's central bank, the Bank of Greece, to cover the cost of the large outflows. The ECB must approve increases in the program's size.