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Eurozone pushes back on Greece’s reforms plan

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In this Friday, Feb. 6, 2015 file photo, Greek Minister Alexis Tsipras, right and his Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis look on during the vote for the president of Greece's parliament in Athens.

In this Friday, Feb. 6, 2015 file photo, Greek Minister Alexis Tsipras, right and his Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis look on during the vote for the president of Greece’s parliament in Athens.

Petros Giannakouris, Associated Press

Greece's proposals for new economic reforms will be reviewed starting this week by a technical team before eurozone creditors consider releasing vital funds from the country's bailout, officials said Monday.

A meeting of the eurozone's 19 finance ministers in Brussels dealt with the Greek issue for just 20 minutes, and stressed that no more time could be wasted before Athens began work on its reforms.

"We agreed today that there is no further time to lose," said Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutchman who heads the finance ministers' meeting known as the Eurogroup.

Technical discussions on the reform proposals Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has made "must and will start on Wednesday," aiming to quickly and successfully conclude the review of the reforms, he added.

The eurozone agreed last month to extend Greece's bailout until June, but before it actually pays it more rescue loans it wants to approve a detailed list of reforms by April. So far, Greece, has only outlined its proposals in broad terms.

The final 7.5 billion euro installment of Greece's 240 billion euro international bailout is still pending, and without it, the country is quickly running out of funds and faces repayments of International Monetary Fund loan installments this month.

Dijsselbloom said there could be "no talk of disbursement (of bailout funds) if there is no implementation."

He said the eurozone would consider cutting the disbursement of the loans in parts, but that could happen only after Greece had begun implementing its reforms.

Greece's left-wing government described Monday's meeting as successful, with an official in the Greek capital saying it was a step toward implementing the deal reached last month to extend Greece's bailout and provide it with more loans.

The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

Greece's government was voted into power in January on promises of abolishing the budget austerity that accompanied the country's 240 billion euro bailout. But it has had to roll back on a series of pre-election promises, including seeking a write-off of most of the country's debt.

Monday's meeting of the 19 finance ministers from countries that use the euro was held amid considerable skepticism over Greece's progress in detailing promised reforms.

Over the weekend, Varoufakis said in an interview to Italy's Corriere de la Sera newspaper that if the creditors do not eventually approve the reforms, his government could call new elections or a referendum. The government later clarified any referendum would be on the content of reforms and fiscal policy.

Among other reforms, Varoufakis' suggestions include using "non-professional inspectors" such as students, housewives and tourists, to crack down on tax evasion, according to a leaked copy of the letter.

The inspectors would be hired on a short-term casual basis "to pose, after some basic training, as customers, on behalf of the tax authorities, while 'wired' for sound and video," the letter says.

Becatoros reported from Athens, Greece. Mike Corder in The Hague, Frank Jordans in Berlin and Nicholas Paphitis in Athens contributed to this report.