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Greece and Lenders Fall Out Over Firings

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A dispute over sacking civil servants has stalled talks between Greece and the "troika" of international lenders, delaying disbursement of a €2.8bn aid tranche due this month amid fears the country's bailout program is already veering off track.

A joint statement by the EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund said: "Significant progress has been made but a few issues remain outstanding", adding that the mission would return in April after more technical work had been done.

It was only the second time in almost three years of regular reviews of Greek progress with economic reform that the troika has left Athens without agreeing specific measures with the government.

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At a meeting on Wednesday night with Antonis Samaras, prime minister, the troika heads of mission rejected requests for austerity to be modified because of deepening social distress, arguing that more work needed to be done to quantify alternative measures proposed by the Greek side.

The governing coalition has pledged to avoid compulsory lay-offs to achieve a target of 25,000 civil service job cuts by 2014. But Greek officials failed to provide sufficient details of proposals to sack 7,000 public sector workers found guilty of misdemeanors, transfer less-skilled workers to a "mobility reserve" and accelerate retirements this year.

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