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MPs pass budget in late-night vote

But government still arguing with troika of creditors

Greek MPs passed the government's 2014 budget, forecasting a return to growth after six consecutive years of recession.

But its revenue and spending targets were immediately contested by the country's bailout lenders.

There are still furious disagreements with the European Union, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank on the fate of Greece's defence industries, which the troika wants liquidated, and demands for public-sector layoffs and mortgage foreclosures.

These have led to the talks being suspended and a delay in bailout funding.

Late on Saturday, just minutes before the vote, both the IMF and the European Commission warned that full talks would not resume until January, not next week as the government had announced.

An IMF spokeswoman said that "technical discussions" would continue next week.

"We expect a full negotiating team to return to Athens in January, after the authorities have made further progress in implementation."

The governing coalition of the conservative New Democracy and the centre-left Pasok held together for the vote shortly after midnight on Saturday, with 153 MPs in the 300-member parliament backing the budget, 142 against.

"This is the first decisive step in exiting the bailout," claimed Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

The budget forecast growth of 0.6 per cent in 2014 - the first positive figure since 2007.

Greece has been through six years of deep recession that have shrunk its economy by nearly 30 per cent and Mr Samaras admitted that the economy would still shrink by 4 per cent this year.

But he added that his government had exceeded four of its five targets, coming up short only on unemployment, which remains above 27 per cent.

He claimed "revolutionary" developments in 2013, such as a small primary surplus of €800 million (£670m) and a current account surplus for the first time in decades.

"It means that we will no longer need additional borrowing," Mr Samaras said, although it will require a further €10 billion (£8bn) "haircut" in its debt next year.


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