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Greek PM offers olive branch to protesting farmers
[ATHENS] Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday announced a string of measures to support the agricultural sector in a bid to end weeks of roadblocks by farmers angry over tax reforms and a pensions overhaul.
Vangelis Papayannopoulos, one of several farmers' representatives who met with Mr Tsipras, said the delegation had "a substantive dialogue with the prime minister" but refused to promise to end the protests that have seen major Greek routes intermittently blocked with tractors for more than a month.
In a gesture of goodwill, the farmers on Monday temporarily lifted their blockade on Greece's key north-south road in the Tempi valley. But they again blocked the passage of trucks at Promachonas, the main border crossing with Bulgaria.
Repeated disruption at the border has angered Bulgarian truckers, who on Friday sealed off all six checkpoints along the frontier in protest.
Mr Tsipras ruled out yielding to the farmers' demand that he axe the pension reforms bill and tax changes requested by Greece's creditors in exchange for a third huge international bailout.
"The country's recovery must take your position into account, but you must take into account the budgetary requirements," Mr Tsipras told the farmers' representatives.
His spokeswoman Olga Gerovassili said Mr Tsipras proposed staggering planned raises in pension contributions until 2021 as well as measures to protect those on the lowest incomes, and commercial and administrative support for the agricultural sector.
He also announced the launch of a campaign to "limit abuses by middlemen and cartels" in food distribution.