Greece slammed the EU and IMF on Saturday and told them to stop interfering in its domestic affairs after the lenders said Athens was broadly on track but must speed up reforms, sell more assets and fight vested interests.
EU and IMF inspectors monitoring the bailout plan that saved Greece from bankruptcy gave on Friday the green light for more aid but adopted a more critical tone than on previous visits.
The behavior of EU, IMF and ECB officials was unacceptable. We asked nobody to interfere in domestic affairs, government spokesman George Petalotis said in a statement.
We have needs but also limits, and we are not negotiating with anybody the limits of our self-respect. We only take orders from the Greek people, Petalotis said, in a rare, harsh public criticism of the country's international lenders.
The statement was published after media criticized the government for not standing up to the comments from the visiting inspectors on people holding anti-austerity strikes, as well as criticism over a plan to sell more public assets.
Referring to groups opposing plans to open up highly regulated professions -- a key part of the EU/IMF deal -- the IMF mission chief Poul Thomsen told a news conference on Friday:
Some of the groups who are out on the streets, truck drivers, pharmacists ... They are hiding behind their privileges that allow them to extract high prices, impose a big burden on the rest of society.
Pharmacists, bus drivers and doctors have been holding on and off strikes for weeks over reforms of their professions, creating massive traffic jams in central Athens.
In another sign of tension over cooperation with the IMF and Greece's euro zone partners, who allowed the country to avoid default but imposed unpopular public wage cuts and tax hikes, a minister criticized EU/IMF calls for more privatizations.
The lenders set an ambitious target for privatization proceeds, saying on Friday that 50 billion euros should be raised in 2011-2015. The government's previous target was for 7 billion euros in 2011-2013.
Revenues of 50 billion euros by 2015 from privatizations of state assets are not possible, Infrastructure Minister Dimitris Reppas told state TV Net on Saturday, a day after the EU, IMF and ECB officials ended their inspection to Athens.
A finance minister official, however, said on Friday the country's new target for privatization was indeed 50 billion euros.
(Reporting by Lefteris Papadimas, additional reporting by Harry Papachristou; writing by Ingrid Melander; editing by Diana Abdallah)