Merkel's visit followed a subtle shift in political rhetoric in Germany toward the Greeks, with the chancellor repeating her desire to keep Greece in the eurozone and urging political allies to refrain from public criticism of the Athens government. It appeared that a goal of the trip was to affirm her support for Samaras as Germany's best bet to see through painful structural reforms which the Germans believe are necessary if Greece is to regain economic stability.
Before the visit, Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said the chancellor would express her support to the Greek government in the "very demanding reform course" and praised the country's progress to date.
"She knows that the country faces very demanding and painful tasks," Seibert said. "What has already happened has our support; what still has to happen, we will address very clearly."
That was a marked difference with the tone of statements made last summer, when some Merkel allies were openly dismissive of the Greeks for alleged economic mismanagement, with some politicians even suggesting that Greece's departure from the common currency would not produce the economic shock that many fear.
The visit was also likely aimed at preventing the opposition Social Democrats from criticizing her for allegedly failing to display strong personal leadership in the euro crisis in the run-up to national elections expected in about a year.
Debt monitors from the EU, IMF and European Central Bank, known as the "troika", will deliver a report within coming weeks on whether Greece should receive its next bailout payment, without which it will go bankrupt.
"It's taking longer than was originally thought," Merkel said. But it's better to deal with problems in detail that to try and address them quickly."
A senior Greek government official said rescue creditors had given the country a list of around 90 structural reforms to be approved immediately so that the vital next loan installment could be paid sometime next month.
The official asked not to be named, since talks between Merkel and Samaras were ongoing.
AP writers in Berlin and AP television and photography staff and in Athens contributed.
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