Greece's president has begun another day of talks with leaders of the country's political parties in a final effort to find agreement on forming a government, more than a week after elections gave no party a majority in parliament.
Five political leaders attended Tuesday's meeting at the presidential palace, with only the communists, who declined to attend, and the far-right Golden Dawn party, who were not invited, absent among parties who gained parliamentary seats in that vote.
President Karolos Papoulias met with the heads of the conservative New Democracy, socialist PASOK and Democratic Left parties on Monday in the eighth day of talks to resolve the deadlock.
The leaders said the president had suggested creating a government of so-called technocrats or "personalities", in an effort to break the deadlock between New Democracy and PASOK, which favour sticking to the terms of a punishing bailout agreement, and the Radical Left Coalition (Syriza), the left-wing bloc opposed to the bailout.
Papoulias' has until Thursday's opening of parliament to forge a deal, otherwise new elections must be called for next month. The political uncertainty has roiled European markets and left Greece's continued participation in the euro in serious doubt.
Financial markets were set for another difficult day on Tuesday over a crisis which some fear could also snag Spain and
Italy after bringing down Greece, Ireland and Portugal.
Al Jazeera's Tim Friend, reporting from Athens, described the ongoing negotiations as "intense and, at times, ill-tempered".
"The confusion and wrangling goes on here in Greece. The chances of these talks succeeding are ebbing away and I think that in the near future we will hear the president call for new elections," he said.
"There is quite a bit of brinkmanship going on at the moment, and it has pushed the country into very volatile territory."
Syriza, which finished second in May 6 elections with 16.8 per cent, announced late on Sunday has refused to join any coalition government that did not agree to scrap controversial austerity measures mandated by Greece's eurozone partners and international creditors.
Greece's political landscape has been in disarray for a week since inconclusive elections left parliament divided between supporters and opponents of the 130bn euro ($167bn) EU/IMF bailout, with neither side able to form a government.
Papoulias is making a final effort to negotiate an agreement and break the deadlock. He must call a new election if he cannot persuade the different sides to compromise.
The anti-bailout vote was divided among small parties but has now rallied behind Tsipras, who has emerged as the figurehead for widespread dissatisfaction in Greece with the punishing austerity measures agreed to by the previous PASOK-New Democracy coalition as the price of the bailout.
Polls show Syriza would now place first if the vote was repeated, a prize that comes with a bonus of 50 extra seats in the 300-seat parliament, effectively ending the 40-year dominance of Greek politics by the two main parties.
Tsipras says he wants to keep Greece in the euro but the bailout agreement must be torn up.
European leaders say that would require them to cut off funding, allow Greece to go bankrupt and eject it from the European single currency.
Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has led the charge to set austerity measures in Greece to keep it from defaulting.
“I think it would be best for Greece to stay in the eurozone. This means that we have to show a way to get Greece back on track step by step," she said.
After meeting with Papoulias and the conservative and socialist leaders, Tsipras said of their coalition offer: "They are not asking for agreement, they are asking us to be their partners in crime and we will not be their accomplices."
PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos said he was nonetheless holding on to hopes that a deal could still be salvaged, but warned time was running out.
"Despite the impasse at the meeting we had with the president, I hold on to some limited optimism that a government can be formed," said Venizelos.
"The moment of truth has come. We either form a government or we go to elections."
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies