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Germany signals flexibility on "factors beyond Greece's control"

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble delivers a speech at the German Engineering Conference (Deutscher Maschinenbau Gipfel) in Berlin,
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble delivers a speech at the German Engineering Conference (Deutscher Maschinenbau Gipfel) in Berlin,

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble suggested on Wednesday that his country may be prepared to show flexibility on Greece's fulfillment of its bailout terms if there are obstacles that are beyond Greece's control.

Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said earlier on Wednesday that Athens had been given additional time by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to implement new austerity measures.

But Schaeuble stressed at an event in Berlin that a report from inspectors representing Greece's "troika" of international lenders - the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union - must confirm that the debt-crippled state had met its terms before further aid could be unlocked.

However, he added: "If the troika should come to the conclusion that there are objective things that the Greeks cannot change on their own and if it makes suggestions for how to solve this, then we will consult on that in the German Bundestag (lower house of parliament) and decide on them accordingly."

Germany's stance is critical as Europe's biggest economy is also the biggest contributor to Greece's bailout.

The "troika" report, due shortly, is expected to show that Greece's budget deficit is larger than previously thought and that it will need more time to meet its targets.

Schaeuble said Greece's biggest problem was not a lack of money but rather a lack of trust, due to the fact that it had repeatedly failed to meet its commitments.

He said Greece needed not only to reduce its deficits but also to boost its competitiveness through structural reforms.

Schaeuble and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi had earlier said that, while there had been progress in the talks, they would await the review by the troika of inspectors from the IMF, ECB and European Commission, which has yet to be completed.

(Reporting by Michelle Martin; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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