Greece close to deal with creditors: parliament chief

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Greece is close to a long-delayed deal with its creditors after months of tough talks, according to parliament chief Nikos Voutsis

Greece is close to a long-delayed deal with its creditors after months of tough talks that have held up the payment of vital loans, a senior official has said.

"We are close to an agreement in coming days," Greek parliament chief Nikos Voutsis told a European Left meeting late on Wednesday.

"All indications show that a deal is imminent," he added, according to the state Athens News Agency.

Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos has said that reaching an agreement in time for a scheduled April 7 meeting of eurozone ministers is "feasible."

Negotiations between Athens and its eurozone and International Monetary Fund creditors have dragged for months owing to disagreements over debt relief and budget targets for the austerity-hit country.

Among the measures reportedly demanded by the creditors are new pension cuts, lower tax breaks and more restrictive rules on union strikes.

They are also pushing for a major asset sale at the state Public Power Corporation, Greece's largest electricity provider and a near monopoly, in the interests of increasing competition in the sector.

The impasse has held up the latest installment of Greece's 86-billion-euro ($91 billion) bailout, agreed in 2015, which it needs for debt repayments in July.

The last such deadlock over Greece, which followed the election of leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in early 2015, nearly saw Athens expelled from the euro.

Experts say the uncertainty has also dragged down Greece's troubled economy.

The latest data shows the economy stagnated in 2016, dashing hopes for a small recovery.

It has also held up access to the European Central Bank's asset purchase programme, known as quantitative easing, or QE.

Without access to QE, the country will not be able to make a planned return to debt markets by early 2018, according to the Greek finance ministry.

The issue is further complicated by back-to-back elections in Germany and France later this year, which are expected to hold up decision-making on Greece at the eurozone level.