BRUSSELS — Greece's leader was trying to bridge differences with creditors Wednesday on a plan to make more reforms in Greece in exchange for bailout loans the country needs to avoid a potentially disastrous default next week.
Before leaving for meetings in Brussels, the leftwing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras criticized the International Monetary Fund as being needlessly picky about the reforms Greece had proposed.
The IMF reportedly finds that the budget savings reforms, which creditors are demanding in exchange for loans, are focused too much on tax increases that can hurt businesses, rather than spending cuts.
Tsipras said that as long as Athens delivered the right amount of savings, the IMF should have no say in what specific policies a sovereign country adopts.
"This odd stance seems to indicate that either there is no interest in an agreement or that special interests are being backed," Tspiras wrote on his official Twitter account.
The latest disagreement hit markets, with Europe's Stoxx 50 index down 1 percent and shares on the Athens Stock Exchage dropping 4 percent in afternoon trading there. Government bond yields in Greece, Spain and Portugal also rose, an indication of investor concern.
Tsipras comes to EU headquarters early to meet with the heads of the European Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank to hopefully clinch a deal before a European Union summit opens late Thursday. The finance ministers of the 19 nations that use the euro are expected to work deep into the night to finalize the details of any deal before the leaders open their summit.
"Their expectation is not to negotiate," said an official of the EU government leaders. "Their expectation is to welcome an agreement," the EU official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.
Greece has a 1.6 billion euro ($1.8 billion) debt to pay on Tuesday which it cannot afford it unless the creditors unfreeze 7.2 billion euros (8.1 billion dollars) in bailout money.
Despite the lingering disagreements with the IMF and several EU officials, Greek Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis said he was confident an agreement could be finalized within the day.
"The details are what's left — a small gap," he told private Mega Television. "It'll be over today."
Elected on an anti-bailout platform in January, Tsipras' left-wing Syriza party had promised to scrap all austerity measures and demand forgiveness on a chunk of the country's bailout debt. Now the party could face difficulty in persuading party lawmakers to back a new deal that must be approved by Monday night.
Athens was forced into concessions by a punishing debt repayment schedule and an economy hammered by uncertainty: A return to mild recession, ratings downgrades and dramatic outflow of bank deposits that threatened to crash the country's financial system.
Stathakis insisted that the concessions were mutual.
He said Greece had convinced creditors to lower their demands for a primary surplus — the surplus when not counting interest payments on debt. As a result, that should help the Greek economy grow between 1 percent to 1.5 percent this year.
He was also upbeat about confidence returning in the country. The European Central Bank has had to increase the amount of emergency credit that Greek banks can draw on every working day since Friday. The credit is needed to help the banks cope with deposit outflows.
"Bank deposits will return," Stathakis said. "And there will be a return to conditions of liquidity. This time the money taken out, compared to 2012, is being kept at (home) and not sent abroad, so I think this was the most balanced agreement that is possible under the circumstances."
Raf Casert contributed from Brussels.