Greece invites IMF to join bailout talks starting Monday

  • Reuters, Athens
  • Updated: Jul 25, 2015 18:49 IST
Greek PM Alexis Tsipras is applauded by lawmakers before addressing his parliamentary group meeting at the Greek Parliament in Athens on Friday. (Reuters Photo)

Talks between Greece and its international creditors over a new bailout package is expected to start on Monday after logistical issues delayed meetings in the last week, a Greek official said on Saturday.

The meetings with officials from the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund had been expected to start on Friday but were delayed by organisational issues including the location of talks and security.

The finance ministry official said talks were now expected to get underway formally on Monday after the logistical issues were resolved. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, denied that the government was trying to keep the lenders' team away from government departments.

"We don't have any problem with them visiting the General Accounting Office," the official said.

Greeks have viewed inspections visits by the lenders in Athens as a violation of the country's sovereignty and six-months of acrimonious negotiations with EU partners took place in Brussels at the government's request.

Asked if the government would now allow EU, IMF and ECB mission chiefs to visit Athens for talks on a new loan, State Minister Alekos Flabouraris said, "If the agreement says that they should visit a ministry, we have to accept that."

The confusion around the expected start to the talks on Friday underlined the challenges ahead if negotiations are to be wrapped up in time for a bailout worth up to 86 billion euros to be approved in parliament by August 20, as Greece intends.

Already, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is struggling to contain a rebellion in his leftwing Syriza party that made his government dependent on votes from pro-European opposition parties to get the tough bailout terms approved in parliament.

One of Tsipras' closest aides warned that the understanding with the opposition parties could not last long and a "clear" solution was needed, underlining widespread expectations that new elections may come as soon as September or October.

"The country cannot go on with a minority government for long. We need clear, strong solutions," said state minister Nikos Pappas.

Tsipras, who is by far the most popular politician in Greece according to opinion polls, has said his priority is to secure the bailout package before dealing with the political fallout from the Syriza party rebellion.

According to a poll by Metron Analysis for Parapolitika newspaper on Saturday, 61% of Greeks had a positive view of Tsipras against 36% who disapproved. An overwhelming majority - 78% - still wanted Greece to stay in the euro zone against 19% in favour of going back to the drachma.

Tsipras insists there is no viable alternative to the bailout but has been wary of striking out against his party opponents in a bid to keep it together, at least while talks proceed.

Flabouraris called on Syriza rebels to drop their opposition.

"They are still my comrades and I urge them to get back to their senses even at the last moment," he told Skai television. "They should realise that the Left movement is now in power. It's not an opposition party. Now we have to discuss the new landscape."

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