Greece, lenders should conclude first bailout review the soonest: government

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[February 09, 2016]  ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece and its international lenders must conclude a first assessment of the country's bailout reforms as quickly as possible, the government spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

Talks between the mission chiefs from the European Union, International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and the euro zone's bailout fund on reviewing Greece's progress and the government over a tough pension reform plan and fiscal targets took a break on Friday after four days of meetings.

A positive review is crucial to Greece continuing to receive aid and to avoid a return to last year's crisis, which saw Athens come close to crashing out of the euro zone.

Greece expects the review to resume next week and be concluded by the end of this month to open long-awaited talks that will make its debt more manageable in the future.

"The government's position is that the whole procedure must be wrapped up the soonest possible because neither Greece nor Europe have time to lose," Olga Gerovasili told a regular weekly briefing of reporters.

"The ball is now on the lenders' court and they should have a constructive stance."

There are concerns that the review might stumble because Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose government hinges on a slim three-seat majority, faces stiff resistance by several professional groups, including lawyers and farmers.

Greek stock market <.ATG> plunged about 8 percent on Monday on fears that the bailout review had hit a snag. They shed 1.2 percent by mid-session trade on Tuesday.

Farmers blocked motorways with their tractors for a fourth week on Tuesday, obstructed traffic at a few crossings on the country's northern borders with Bulgaria and Turkey and were due to shift their action to central Athens on Feb. 12.

Gerovasili said the government wanted "an open and sincere dialogue" with them to find the best possible solutions.

(Reporting by Michele Kambas and Lefteris Papadimas, Writing by Angeliki Koutantou)

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