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Portugal should stick to agreed deficit reduction goals: Eurogroup head

People pass by a political poster reading, "Passos/Toika out. Elections now. Turn the crisis around. Cut the debt and not the salaries", on
People pass by a political poster reading, "Passos/Toika out. Elections now. Turn the crisis around. Cut the debt and not the salaries", on

VILNIUS (Reuters) - Portugal should stick to the budget deficit reduction targets agreed with international lenders, the head of euro zone finance ministers Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Friday after Lisbon said a softer goal for next year would be better.

Portugal's Deputy Prime Minister Paulo Portas told a parliamentary commission on Wednesday the budget deficit goal set for next year should be 4.5 percent of GDP rather than the agreed 4 percent.

"I think it's important to stick to what we've now agreed within the program, also including the deficit targets," Dijsselbloem told reporters ahead of a meeting of euro zone finance ministers.

"I don't think it's a good signal to keep the discussion alive whether the targets should be more or less," he said.

"The outside world should understand that Portugal and the Portuguese government is committed to what has to be done, what has been agreed. That will help towards an exit from the program as soon as possible," he said.

The next review of the country's bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund begins on Monday. The lenders have already eased Portugal's deficit targets for this year and next year in March, because of a deeper than expected recession.

The target for this year is 5.5 percent, down from 6.4 percent last year.

(Reporting By Martin Santa, writing by Jan Strupczewski)

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