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IMF too demanding on Greek pension reform, Greek minister says

Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos looks on during a news conference at the ministry in Athens, Greece, January 18, 2016. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

ATHENS (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund is making too big a demand on Greece in a pension reform required to complete its first bailout review, finance minister Euclid Tsakalotos said on Tuesday.

Negotiations between the heads of the EU/IMF mission reviewing progress on Greece's pensions overhaul, fiscal targets and the handling of bad loans, took a break earlier this month. It is unclear when the lenders will return to Athens and whether the latest impasse can be broken.

"The IMF is pushing us far too much. It's not socially sensitive," Tsakalotos told an event organised by the BBC in Athens. "It is asking us to do more than we agreed in the summer."

Under a third bailout of up to 86 billion euros (£67.5 billion) signed last summer, Greece was asked to cut pension spending by 1 percent of gross domestic product this year. Athens has refused to cut pensions and says it will increase social security contributions instead.

But IMF's director for Europe, Poul Thomsen, has said that Greece will need to implement extra measures worth about 9 billion euros to meet its fiscal targets by 2018 and that the Fund could not see how Athens could do so without major savings on pensions.

Without the lenders' acknowledgement of the reforms, the government cannot start relief talks it needs to show austerity-weary Greeks their sacrifices are paying off.

(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas, Writing by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)