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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The time has come for euro zone lenders to provide Greece with new loans, a vice-president of the European Commission said on Thursday, a week before euro zone finance ministers meet to discuss the Greek bailout program.
A deal next week on unblocking new loans for Greece is seen as crucial to prevent Athens from defaulting on debts due in July.
Representatives of euro zone states are meeting on Thursday in Slovenia to try to overcome a months-long stalemate over the Greek program, before finance ministers hold a regular meeting in Luxembourg on June 15.
"It's time to move with the next disbursement," Valdis Dombrovskis told a news conference in Brussels, stressing that Greece had already met its fiscal and reform obligations for the funds to be disbursed.
Dombrovskis said delays in unblocking loans to Greece, part of its 86-billion-euro ($96.6 billion) bailout program, have already hit confidence in the Greek economy.
The disbursement of new loans has been linked to the International Monetary Fund's participation in the aid program. This has not been agreed yet due to differences between the IMF and some euro zone lenders on debt relief measures for Greece and its long-term financial stability.
Dombrovskis said debt relief measures were being discussed, but insisted the priority was to disburse new loans to Greece.
Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio; Editing by Philip Blenkinsop and Gareth Jones