Greek deputy minister resigns over proposed milk reform

ATHENS Sat Mar 29, 2014 12:53pm GMT

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ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's Deputy Agriculture Minister Maximos Charakopoulos resigned from his post on Saturday to protest against a dairy product reform bill demanded by the country's international lenders that he says will hurt Greek dairy producers.

Critics say the milk reform would lead to Greek dairy companies buying more milk more cheaply from abroad, thus hurting domestic production.

The proposed measure is part of a general bill to overhaul Greek markets that will be put to the vote on Sunday. The passing of the 225-page bill is a condition for Greece to secure the next tranche of bailout loans from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Greece needs the loans to repay 9.3 billion-euro debt maturing in May.

Charakopoulos, a lawmaker for Prime Minister Antonis Samaras' conservative co-ruling New Democracy party, did not clarify if he would back the bill in Sunday's vote, but in a statement suggested he would not vote against it.

"At this point, my political ethics does not allow me to put the country's smooth financing at risk," he said.

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and Renee Maltezou; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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