Amid jeers, bailout inspectors back in Greece, government says agreement 'very close'

ATHENS, Greece – Greece and its international debt inspectors on Monday resumed talks on the austerity measures the country must make to keep receiving rescue loans. The government insisted a deal is “very close.”

The officials from the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund — together known as the troika — were holding talks in Athens with Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and other government officials.

The officials entered the finance ministry using a side door amid jeers from dozens of demonstrators who gathered outside the building, including laid-off government cleaning staff.

The troika is pressing for sweeping changes in market practices and labour rules. The negotiations are seen as key to talks expected later this year on how to make Greece’s massive national debt sustainable.

“We are in the final stages. We are very close to an agreement,” government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told private Mega television.

Greece’s main opposition party, the left-wing Syriza, said the government should not meet with the troika officials, citing growing poverty and 28 per cent unemployment resulting from the harsh reforms.

In a weekend newspaper interview, Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras said his party would demand that European lenders cancel a portion of Greece’s debt, or suspend interest payments on debts “unilaterally if necessary.”