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Greek PM in Berlin to seek more time on cuts

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Antonis Samaras, the Greek prime minister will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel as he seeks more time for Greece to make spending cuts.

After his meeting on Friday with Merkel, Samaras will travel to France for talks with President Francois Hollande.

Merkel along with Hollande urged Greece on Thursday to stick to its programme of reforms.

"It is important for me that we all stick to our commitments ... but I will encourage Greece to continue along its path of reforms," Merkel told reporters on Thursday.

She added it was important to wait for a report by Greece's international creditors on Athens' progress on reforms before making any further decisions on whether the recession-hit country could stay in the euro.

For his part, Hollande said he was in favour of Greece remaining in the 17-country bloc but that this was in the hands of the Greeks themselves.

"I want Greece to stay in the eurozone," he said, adding however: "It's up to the Greeks to make the necessary efforts so that we can achieve this goal."

'Breathing space'

Samaras has been giving interviews to German media stressing that while Athens may seek more time to meet austerity targets, it was not asking for more money from partners. But Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany's finance minister, sounded a stern note.

European leaders say any decisions on Greece will depend on a report next month on its progress by a "troika" of EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund inspectors.

Schaeuble warned that more time could also mean "more money" and added that Europe's help for Greece had already "gone to the limits of what is economically viable".

"More time is not a solution to the problems," Schaeuble told German radio, addressing Samaras' hopes that his country might be given four years instead of two to push through tough economic reforms, to alleviate the impact on the Greek people.

Merkel herself dashed hopes for far-reaching concessions on Wednesday, saying during a trip to Moldova that she was "going into these talks with the awareness that we have to achieve that every partner sticks to his commitments".

But behind the stern public message, Berlin and Paris may have little choice but to give Samaras what he called "a bit of air to breathe".


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