Greece's Tsipras says debt relief needed for growth

September 8, 2016 5:44 AM EDT

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PARIS (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras warned euro zone leaders on Thursday his country would struggle to return to sustainable growth without a debt-relief deal.

Athens, facing a second bailout review entailing an unpopular loosening of labor laws in the autumn, is keen to show that painful tax rises and pension cuts as part of its 86 billion-euro bailout deal last year will bear fruit.

In an interview with French newspaper Le Monde, Tsipras said he expected the recession-stricken Greek economy to return to growth in 2016 and expand by 2.7 percent next year but that the lack of debt relief acted as a brake on the recovery.

"The recovery is slow, in particular because we don't see the necessary generosity from our partners on the issue of debt relief," he told Le Monde in an interview published on its website.

"If they refuse to move forward on this issue, then it will be difficult for my country to return to growth," he said.

Tsipras said it was time for Europe to give a signal on the issue and that it could not wait until after Germany's federal elections due in September 2017.

"We have 27 democratically elected governments in Europe. Germany is not the only country with elections," he said.

Germany, the European Union's biggest economy and longtime critic of Greece's economic performance, is very reluctant to discuss granting debt relief for Athens before its elections.

Tsipras also said it was unacceptable that only 3,000 migrants had been resettled so far this year out of a planned 33,000 for the full year.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants, many fleeing wars in the Middle East, have arrived in Greece over the past year from Turkey hoping to move on to wealthier western Europe, but many are now trapped in detention centers. Athens wants other EU member states to share the burden of caring for them.

(Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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