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Feb 21, 2015 10:00 AM

Greek premier: difficulties lie ahead on bailout

The Associated Press

ATHENS, Greece (AP) Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras on Saturday hailed the "important success" of Greece's negotiations with its creditors a day earlier, but warned that more difficult consultations lie ahead.

"We won a battle, but not the war. The difficulties lie ahead of us," Tsipras said in a TV appearance, adding Greece is now seeing "the end of austerity and the bailout."

Following weeks of accusations and distrust, Greece and its creditors in the 19-nation eurozone reached an agreement Friday to extend the country's rescue loans, a move that should dramatically ease concerns it was heading for the euro exit as soon as next month.

The agreement means that Greece will avoid going bankrupt, at least over the four months of the extension. To get the money though, the Greek government has to present a series of unspecified economic reforms that are deemed acceptable by creditors and rooted in Greece's previously enacted bailout agreement something the government had promised not to do.

"I think it is a good balance that has been reached for Greece. And it was made possible because Greece has shown a strong sense of responsibility and Europe has shown a lot of solidarity. Those are the principles that I have laid down," French President Francois Hollande said of the agreement.

Faced with criticism that he came away with few concessions, Tsipras clearly aimed to put his own spin on the deal.

"20 days ago, we took over a country on the edge of the abyss, with an empty Treasury, and facing suffocating deadlines," Tsipras claimed, despite the fact that Greece achieved a modest growth last year as well as a primary budget surplus.

Tsipras and Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis are meeting with Greece's inner cabinet later Saturday to brief it on the Eurogroup meeting and discuss the proposals.

Tsipras didn't specify what reforms would be considered but mentioned a crackdown on tax evasion and corruption, reforming the state sector and dealing with the country's "humanitarian crisis."

The cabinet will also decide what to do with promises to legislate easier terms for debtors and preventing foreclosures on homes. According to Friday's agreement, the new government cannot introduce legislation that contradicts or takes back measures agreed with the creditors.

The agreement was greeted with relief by some Greeks as a first step forward and away from the crushing austerity of recent years. Others were more skeptical, wondering whether the left-wing Syriza government will be able to keep even a fraction of its promises and how it will find the money to finance them.

"It was a good start. There is a long way ahead of us, but I am optimistic. At least things will not get worse," said Thomas Michalopoulos, 34, a private company employee.

"I don't know. Where will they find the money to fund all those promises they have made?" asked Maria Kefala, a university student and journalist.

"I think that nothing changed," added retiree Paradissanos Rigas, 72.


Raphael Kominis in Athens and Oleg Cetinic in Paris contributed to this report.


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