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Greece shakes up EU-IMF talks team: official

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Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis (L) and deputy minister for international economic relations Euclid Tsakalotos leave the Maximos Mansion after a meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (not pictured) in Athens April 3, 2015. A government statement said a "political negotiation team" would be formed under junior foreign minister Euclid Tsakalotos, a 55-year-old economics professor, to assist the troubled talks.

[ATHENS] Greece's hard-left government on Monday reshuffled its team of officials handling critical debt talks with EU-IMF creditors after making little progress in the last two months.

A government statement said a "political negotiation team" would be formed under junior foreign minister Euclid Tsakalotos, a 55-year-old economics professor, to assist the troubled talks.

Greece has been trying to negotiate a deal that would unlock 7.2 billion euros (US$7.8 billion) in remaining EU-International Monetary Fund bailout money that the debt-ridden Mediterranean country needs to avoid default and a possible exit from the euro.

But the government in Athens, elected in January on an anti-austerity ticket, has resisted pressure to continue with a policy of cuts in return for the cash.

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The move on Monday came after EU ministers heaped pressure on Greece to speed up negotiations, after a meeting in Riga last week ended without a breakthrough.

Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has become a lightning rod for criticism at home and abroad over the failure of the talks to produce a result.

A survey published on Sunday showed that seven out of 10 Greeks want their radical left-wing leaders to reach an agreement with their creditors, and gave Mr Varoufakis an approval rating of just over 51 per cent.

The government said Monday that it would continue to support Mr Varoufakis - a maverick economics professor - against "manipulated" media attacks.

Greece needs a deal as it is slowly running out of money to keep up with the payment of salaries, pensions and its international debt obligations.

AFP

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