BRUSSELS (ANA/ C. Vasilaki) Intense efforts are underway to overcome the new, last-minute obstacles that are threatening to torpedo the prospects for an agreement on Greece at Friday’s Eurogroup, Brussels sources told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) on Thursday.

Regarding the new “stumbling block” in the talks that appeared on Wednesday, one source said it was because the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had expressed renewed doubts about the reliability of the contingency mechanism or ‘fiscal cutter’ in 2018, calling for an early implementation of austerity cuts to pensions and the tax-free income allowance.

One of the sources that spoke to the ANA pointed to Berlin as the ‘mastermind’ behind the new IMF demands, saying that it wanted to reopen the issue of the 2018 primary surplus target of 3.5 pct and whether this will be met. As a result, the source did not rule out the possibility that German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble will openly ask for the implementation of cuts as early as 2018 on Friday.

Brussels sources also noted Germany’s “displeasure” at a change of stance from the Greek side in recent days and that the IMF’s stance since the beginning of the week has been “strange,” while pointing out that Greece has also reopened chapters in the negotiation that were considered agreed upon in the past.

One European official noted that efforts were being made to overcome the difficulties before Friday’s Eurogroup, while another said that “there is still hope for Friday” and that the Brussels’ side has not ruled out a new round of contacts before the Eurogroup.

Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem has said his goal is to present a “political agreement in principle” to the Eurozone finance ministers meeting in Valletta that will open the way for the return of the institutions to Athens to conclude a staff-level agreement on the second review.

The European Commission through its spokesperson for financial issues Annika Breidthardt, said that it was in contact with Greek authorities and the other institutions, while expressing conviction that a deal can be reached by Friday.

Breidthardt underlined that all the partners must continue to engage “in good faith” in order reach an agreement for completing the second review as soon as possible, expressing hope that progress can be made in Valletta.

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The Athens-Macedonian News Agency (AMNA) (Greek: Αθηναϊκό-Μακεδονικό Πρακτορείο Ειδήσεων, AΜΠΕ) is a Greece-based news service. It is a public entity anonymous company. It was founded in 2008 as the Athens News Agency – Macedonian Press Agency S.A. (ANA-MPA SA), under a presidential decree which merged the Athens News Agency (ANA SA) and the Macedonian Press Agency (MPA SA).