Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras met European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Thursday as his political allies considered 11.6 billion euros in spending cuts.
Government officials are hoping for a message of support from Barroso, who is on his first visit to Athens in three years, at a time when speculation is rife that Greece may be forced to crash out of the eurozone.
Samaras was elected in June after promising to soften an austerity drive deemed to have accelerated a five-year recession in crisis-hit Greece.
But Greece, which has a multi-billion loan agreement running with the EU, the IMF and the European Central Bank, has been told by its creditors to stick with reforms if it wants to maintain its fund lifeline.
The finance ministry on Thursday said the spending cuts, reportedly to come largely from pensions, health care and benefits, are designed to help Greece negotiate more time to overhaul its spending to cope with a deep recession.
"It's a weapon to request a two-year extension," the official said after talks between Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and senior EU-IMF auditors.
Greece's coalition leaders are to resume talks on the cuts on Monday.
Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (R) talks with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso during their meeting at the prime minister's office in Athens.
The audit report, expected to be made public at the end of August or early September, will determine whether Greece will draw 31.5 billion euros from its EU-IMF loan programme to keep the economy afloat.
The socialists and moderate leftists in Samaras' conservative-led coalition on Thursday said they acknowledged the country's dire economic straits but stressed that Greeks had already made major sacrifices.
"Our ultimate fiscal target can be achieved without fuelling recession and unemployment. Our international partners must understand this," said socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos.
"Our partners must help us, by understanding the political, social and economic condition in Greece," said Venizelos, who warned against making a "sacrificial victim" out of Greece.
"Those who believe this are very much mistaken. (Such a) sacrifice would be suicide for the eurozone," he said.
The International Monetary Fund said Thursday it expected discussions with Greek authorities over the country's bailout-supported programme to continue into September, longer than expected.
The government has so far avoided broaching the extension issue amid hostility from its European creditors who accuse Greece of dragging its feet on reforms agreed over the past two years in return for cash.
Greek protesters gather outside the Aspropirgou steel works in Athens on July 20.
The finance ministry said a law would be passed to limit the salaries of senior officials including the prime minister to save up to 10 million euros per year.
Another 15-17 million euros annually is to be saved from cuts in rent paid on public buildings, the ministry said.
The spending cuts were originally to have been voted into law last month.
But the process was delayed as Greece held back-to-back elections in May and June before a workable government could be formed.
Greece needs money to pay state salaries and pensions, and to recapitalise banks hit by a sovereign debt rollover earlier this year.
It must also repay 3.2 billion euros in debt to the European Central Bank on August 20.
But in Brussels as in Athens most agree that Greece will not be able to reach the goals included in the second bailout package that it signed with its creditors in February.
Analysts of macro economic research consultancy Capital Economics estimate that a possible extension would equal an additional help of 40 billion euros ($48.4 billion) for Greece, from overburdened European rescue funds.
Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras arrives for a meeting at the Finance Ministry in Athens. Greece, which has a multi-billion loan agreement running with the EU, the IMF and the European Central Bank, has been told by its creditors to stick with reforms if it wants to maintain its fund lifeline.
Analysts from French bank Societe Generale believe this sum to be around 60 billion euros.
For European countries that have already asked their parliaments twice, in 2010 and 2012, to provide their Greek partners with emergency loans, a third rescue would be too much, especially at a time of recession, observers say.
Greece's main union GSEE said the new cuts were "unfair and ineffective" and constituted a "killing blow" after two years of prior austerity.
Unions are determined to give a "dynamic" response, it added.
Greece's former IMF representative earlier this week argued that the austerity programme was doomed from the start.
"We knew at the fund from the very beginning that this program was impossible to be implemented because we didn't have any - any - successful example," Panagiotis Roumeliotis, now a vice chairman at Piraeus Bank, told the New York Times.
He added that the 'troika' of creditors were "ignoring" their own errors by consistently blaming Greece's recession on the failure to apply the reforms.