As delays continue, Greek government official says bailout talks could end in February

ATHENS, Greece – Greece’s negotiations with rescue lenders on the future of the country’s bailout program could last for another two months, the country’s deputy prime minister said Monday.

Athens is in talks on how to finance itself once the rescue loans from fellow eurozone countries end this year. It has accepted to shift from regular loans to a so-called precautionary credit line. But it wants easier austerity terms, arguing its economy is doing better.

Evangelos Venizelos told a conference in Athens that talks with lenders would be concluded before parliament elects a new Greek president in February — a vote that could topple the coalition government and that has revived anxiety in markets and eurozone governments.

“Without a doubt, the political uncertainty is the factor that is affecting the negotiations the most,” Venizelos said.

“Our aim is to conclude this process as quickly as possible,” he said. The hope would be to get a deal by next week’s meeting of eurozone finance ministers. At the latest, he said, an agreement is needed before the next presidential elections.

Greece failed to reach a deal last week at talks in Paris with representatives of the “troika” — the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund. They disagree over the Greek government’s near-zero budget deficit forecast for next year.

The conservative-led coalition government needs support from opposition lawmakers to elect a new president. That would require independent members of parliament siding with the government, and some opposition lawmakers defying their own parties.

Alexis Tsipras, leader of the anti-bailout Syriza party that is leading opinion polls, is due to speak at the same conference as Venizelos on Tuesday.


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