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France's Moscovici says Greece must stick to pledges
ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece must fully respect its promises to international lenders if it is to keep receiving support from its European partners, French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said on Thursday.
"The essential thing is that the commitments made by Greece are met and that an agreement is reached with the troika," Moscovici told reporters in Athens after meetings with Greek leaders including Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.
Moscovici showed no sign of being willing to back Greek requests for an extension of its latest bailout package, saying that it was vital that the conservative-led government in Athens maintained "determination" in pursuing reform goals.
"We hope that this determination is unwavering," he said.
Greece had been pinning hopes on support from France, whose Socialist government has shown sympathy to other debt-laden nations like Italy and Spain over austerity demands, as it seeks two additional years to push through austerity cuts.
Moscovici, making the first visit to Athens by a French finance minister since 1998, said that France was determined to maintain the integrity of the euro zone, and he had broadly encouraging words for Samaras.
"My feeling is that things are going in the right direction and must go all the way," he said.
Moscovici is the latest senior European official to visit Athens to offer a public show of support for Samaras's fragile pro-bailout government, which has won cautious praise from partners for pledging to win back Europe's trust in Greece.
Behind the encouragement, there has been deep concern about Greece's ability to keep up with the demanding requirements of its international bailout program and stave off default.
Greece has admitted it is off-track in meeting the terms of the 130-billion-euro rescue package, and blames that on a deeper-than-expected recession that has left one in four jobless and shut down thousands of businesses.
The country's European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders, whose inspectors are concluding a review that will determine whether Greece gets further aid, also blame bureaucratic dithering and half-hearted efforts to reform.
(Reporting by James Mackenzie and Harry Papachristou; editing by Andrew Roche)
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