November 20, 2013 / 7:06 PM / 6 years ago

Troika to leave Greece on Thursday, return in December

Dutch Finance Minister and Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem listens during a news conference in Birini castle October 31, 2013. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

ATHENS (Reuters) - Inspectors from foreign lenders checking on Greece’s progress towards its bailout targets plan to leave Athens on Thursday and return in early December to continue the review, a Greek finance ministry official said on Wednesday.

The two sides remain at odds over the size of budget savings required to meet next year’s fiscal targets, with speculation that Athens might be forced to adopt new austerity measures.

The latest inspection began in September but was paused and resumed on November 4 after Athens provided the lenders with information enabling them to discuss the financing of the 2014 budget. Little progress was made in the latest round of talks.

While Greece hopes to reach an agreement on the size of the 2014 budget gap and how to cover it by the time euro zone finance ministers meet on Dec 9, the ministry official acknowledged this would be “difficult”.

“I can’t tell you how big the gap is. We are narrowing it, euro cent by euro cent,” the official told reporters on Tuesday.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the chairman of euro zone finance ministers, has said the urgency of progress was political rather than financial as Greece would have enough cash until early next year.

Bailed out twice by the EU and the IMF, Greece has been kept on a drip feed of funds totaling 240 billion euros ($322.6 billion) which have come at the price of unpopular austerity measures, including tax rises and wage cuts.

The government is keen to resist imposing painful new cuts on a nation now in its sixth year of recession.

Reporting by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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