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Greek leader set for trip to Berlin

New Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has accepted an invitation to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin next week, his office has said.

It will be his first visit since his January 25 election to Germany - a major contributor to Greece's bailout that has insisted that Greece should stick to budget austerity measures if it wants to get more rescue loans.

Figures released on Monday by the Greek central bank suggested the country needs the money.

They showed the central government's cash balance was 684 million euro (£487m) in deficit for the first two months of the year, compared with a surplus of 139 million euro (399m) in the same period of 2014.

Excluding interest payments, the surplus fell to 503 million euro (£359m) from 1.68 billion euro (£1.2bn) a year ago.

Mr Tsipras' Syriza party came to power on a pledge to lighten the country's rescue loans. It also wants to ease the budget surplus targets demanded by the rescue creditors, arguing they are too high and hindering the economic recovery.

The budget targets, which have involved spending cuts and tax increases, were meant to reduce debt but have also hurt the economy, putting it through a savage six-year recession.

Mr Tsipras' government has convinced creditors to give it a four-month extension on the bailout programme, but to get the money it must still detail a list of reforms by the end of April.

If creditors do not approve the reforms, they will not unlock some 7 billion euro (£5bn) remaining in the loan funds.

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