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EU slaps down Greece bailout claim

The European Central Bank and lead lender Germany moved swiftly to shoot down a claim by Greece's finance minister that the country had been granted a long-sought extension to meet the terms of its bailout programme.

Yannis Stournaras said the deal was struck as part of weeks-long negotiations with its international creditors over a 13.5 billion-euro (£11 billion) package of new austerity measures for the next two years, required for continued emergency loan payments.

"What have we achieved today? We have achieved the extension," the minister told parliament on Wednesday.

"If we had not been granted that extension, today we not only have needed to take measures worth 13.5 billion euros, but 18.5 billion. We have not gone bankrupt because we still have funds remaining from the previous instalment."

One of the conditions of Greece's 240 billion-euro (£194 billion) bailout programme is that it reforms the economy so the country can eventually return to the bond markets to raise money.

Greece has asked for a two-year extension on its adjustment programme, until the end of 2016, to ease the impact of further austerity measures and labour market reforms.

But in Berlin, German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble bluntly dismissed Mr Stournaras' statement as "speculation". "I can't confirm this," he said. "As far as the Federal Finance Ministry and the German government are concerned, there are no new developments."

Mr Schaeuble said creditors were still awaiting a report on Greece's progress by the so-called troika of debt inspectors, from the European Union, the ECB and International Monetary Fund, before any decisions would be made.

ECB president Mario Draghi also appeared to question the Greek statements. "The review is not finished yet," he said. "I understand progress has been made but that some parts need to be defined, and I don't know anything more than that. I cannot comment on these rumours."

And the International Monetary Fund said: "There has been progress in recent days, but some outstanding issues remain to be agreed upon. Discussions continue."

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