Lenders to return to Athens next week after Greek budget offer

Sat Nov 2, 2013 10:58am GMT

* EU says Greece made new proposal on filling 2014 budget gap

* International inspectors will go ahead with postponed visit

BRUSSELS Nov 2 (Reuters) - Inspectors from Greece's lenders have put a postponed visit to the country back on the agenda and will return early next week after Athens made a new proposal on filling a gap in the 2014 budget, the European Commission said.

The team of officials from the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank - known as the Troika - will decide whether to pay out the next tranche of loans under Greece's bailout programme.

The inspectors visit Athens regularly to check progress on its bailout commitments.

Their most recent inspection began in September before being paused and was initially expected to resume at end-October and then slated for resumption on Nov.4.

On Thursday, euro zone officials said the trip next week would be postponed because the parties had been unable to bridge differences over how to close a 2-billion-euro ($2.7 billion) hole in Greece's 2014 budget.

But the standoff was defused late on Friday when Greece sent the lenders information on how it could fill the fiscal gap and meet other bailout targets, including privatisations.

"We have (on Friday) evening received further information from Athens which means we can confirm our travel plans. Our team will thus be in Athens at the beginning of the coming week," European Commission spokesman Simon O'Connor said.

The International Monetary Fund said that its staff would resume work in Athens on Tuesday.

Greece has been kept afloat by a financial lifeline from the euro zone and the IMF since 2010, with 240 billion euros ($330 billion) pledged in exchange for spending cuts and reforms.

After a six-year recession that wiped out 40 percent of household disposable incomes and sent unemployment soaring to almost 28 percent, Greeks are saying they can take no more.

The coalition government argues it deserves some slack after delivering the biggest budget deficit reduction ever recorded in the euro zone, and Greece's president has said the country would not yield to pressure from foreign lenders to impose more budget austerity.

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