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MENAFN - AFP - 21/11/2012

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(MENAFN - AFP) Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Wednesday called on his EU peers to step up efforts to release vital funds to Athens, warning of a threat to the eurozone after finance ministers failed to settle the matter.

"It's not only the future of our country but the stability of the entire eurozone which depends on the success of the conclusion of this effort in the next few days," Samaras said in a statement.

"Our partners and the IMF have a duty to do what they have taken on," he said hours after the eurozone finance ministers failed to strike a deal, prolonging a five-month wait in Athens for the badly needed cash.

The discord continued in comments made by senior officials on Wednesday.

French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said the eurozone was only a "whisker" away from a deal, in comments to Europe 1 radio.

And German Chancellor Angela Merkel told lawmakers in the Bundestag lower house of parliament that "there is a chance" of a solution at a follow-up meeting set for Monday.

But a source close to the talks insisted to AFP that Europe and the International Monetary Fund were "really not close to a deal."

A major bone of contention between Greece's lenders has been whether to give Athens, which faces a sixth year in recession, an extra two years until 2022 to arrive at a point where it can raise its own funds.

Samaras' frustration was palpable, as the latest holdup came only days after his coalition government had taken a beating in parliament to vote another controversial round of austerity measures.

"Greece did what it had to do, and what it had pledged to do... whatever technical difficulties in finding a technical solution do not justify any negligence or delay," the prime minister said.

Samaras' main coalition partner, the socialist party, was equally scathing.

"The eurozone cannot use Greece as an alibi to justify its inability to deal the various forms of the crisis in a determined, final and visionary manner," said socialist party leader Evangelos Venizelos.

The main opposition Syriza party said the prime minister had "lost the last shred of credibility" after subjecting the Greek people to "vulgar blackmail" by claiming the latest austerity sacrifices would be enough to unblock the loans.

"A government that is subjugated and tied to Merkel's chariot cannot carry out aggressive negotiation," said party leader Alexis Tsipras.

Greece has been waiting since June for a loan instalment of 31.2 billion euros (40 billion), part of a 130-billion-euro financial assistance package initially granted early this year.

By the end of the year, Athens is also due to receive two more aid payments, worth 5.0 and 8.3 billion euros, in exchange for which it has pledged to implement a series of unpopular austerity measures.

The government raised some quick cash last week to repay five billion euros in maturing debt on November 16.

But it now needs to repay another seven billion euros in December.

Greece's repayment schedule in the next two years is even more daunting.

According to figures from the state statistics office, Greece needs to redeem 30.4 billion euros in maturing debt next year and another 25.1 billion in 2014, the state news agency said on Wednesday.

Samaras is to fly to Brussels later in the day to attend the EU summit on the bloc's 2014-2020 budget, which starts on Thursday.

Austerity-driven nations led by British Prime Minister David Cameron are demanding huge cuts to EU spending to match domestic belt-tightening, but face opposition from poorer nations to the east and south who benefit from the Brussels budget.


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