The bitter standoff between Greece and its international creditors has been extended into the weekend, just days before Athens has to meet a crucial debt deadline which could decide whether it goes bankrupt and gets kicked out of the euro currency club.

A key meeting of eurozone finance ministers broke up without agreement on Greece's rescue package on Thursday, intensifying doubts about whether Athens can pay the International Monetary Fund a debt worth about $1.8bn on June 30.

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An agreement on a drastic Greek tax and austerity reform package is necessary for creditors to unfreeze about $8.1bn in bailout money that would get Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras off the hook.

"European history is full of disagreements, negotiations and at the end, compromises," Tsipras said. "So, after the comprehensive Greek proposals, I am confident that we will reach a compromise."

Lower-level negotiations will continue and a new meeting of eurozone finance ministers is tentatively scheduled for Saturday.

The break-up of the eurozone meeting was the latest in a series of negotiating roadblocks, and a major setback since there had been hopes to reach a deal in time for European leaders to approve it at a summit later on Thursday.


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The blockage happened after leaders from the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission raised the stakes by putting forward their joint position on the reforms they would accept to offer Greece a financial lifeline. But Greece, objecting to what it saw as outside interference, was still not on board, and wanted to stick to a previous plan it had offered.

Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek finance minister, said several ministers within the 19-nation eurozone found that Athens was being pushed too hard.

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"Interestingly, several colleagues disagreed and criticised not only our text but also the text of the institutions," he said.

Greece's most influential creditor, Germany, had never been optimistic about a breakthrough on Thursday.

The Greek government so far has "not moved, rather moved backward", said German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. He said the chances for success now "lies exclusively with those responsible in Greece".

Tsipras is under pressure from Greeks themselves as the compromises suggested so far will mean more hardship for citizens already suffering the impact of past austerity measures to bring public spending into line.

According to Greek officials at the talks, creditors are seeking a different mix of austerity measures than those proposed by Athens, making the cuts more immediate.

They include broad pension cuts, higher revenue from sales tax, and a faster elimination of tax exemptions - demands that are likely to fuel dissent within the government if accepted.

Source: AP