Greece in fresh plea for debt relief

"We could specify that in one or the other way but it cannot not be decided upon before the end of the program without a new mandate", he said.

A spokeswoman for Schaeuble's conservative-led finance ministry said that everybody wanted a solution "in the interest of Greece", adding it was up to euro zone finance ministers to find a solution during their talks in Brussels.

Greece's financial woes spilled over into the German election campaign, with Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel calling on the country's creditors to get serious about debt relief.

French President Emmanuel Macron told Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in a telephone conversation that France wants to see Greece's debt burden eased over time, a source at the French president's office said on Monday.

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He noted that talks with the International Monetary Fund, which Germany wants to bring into the Greek bailout, but which demands debt relief for Greece, would be hard.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the eurozone's top official, says a decision on the disbursement of Greece's next batch of bailout cash — around 7 billion euros ($7.7 billion) — could be secured at the meeting, while downplaying expectations that a debt relief package is imminent.

But the main objective of the talks - to get the International Monetary Fund to join the bailout - may be tough to achieve because the International Monetary Fund wants the euro zone to commit now, more firmly and in greater detail to debt relief for Athens, even if it were to happen only in 2018.

Mr. Schaeuble later described reforms agreed by Greece as "remarkable" but said the Greek economy was not yet competitive and that Athens must press ahead with implementing its existing reforms-for-aid programme.

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The country's GDP fell by 0.5 per cent year-on-year in the first three months of 2017, according to early estimates of growth by government statisticians. The hope is that the release of bailout funds soon will shore up confidence that the country won't face bankruptcy again soon.

Greece is now in the midst of its third bailout programme - the current three-year deal expires in the summer of 2018 and could be worth up to €86bn in total.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, named last week, is joining his peers for the talks, and traveled to the Belgian capital with Wolfgang Schaeuble, his counterpart in Berlin who has been a vocal critic of Greece over the seven years of its bailout era.

Though Greece has emerged from its economic depression in 2014 and its public finances have improved dramatically, the economy is back in recession, having shrunk for two straight quarters.

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