Greece handed ultimatum as bailout talks collapse

Eurogroup head pressures Athens to request an extension to programme that expires at the end of the month.

    Greece handed ultimatum as bailout talks collapse
    Thousands of Greeks have come out in support of the government's bid to re-negotiate the bailout [AP]

    Eurozone ministers have handed Greece an ultimatum to request an extension to its bailout programme after crunch talks collapsed, deepening a bitter stand-off that risks seeing Athens bid farewell to the euro.

    Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem on Monday said Greece had the rest of the week to request an extension to the programme, which expires at the end of the month.

    "Given the timelines we have... we can use this week but that is about it," said Dijsselbloem, who is also Dutch finance minister and a defender of austerity policies in the eurozone.

    The radical leftist government of Alexis Tsipras is trying to win a huge overhaul to the terms of its 240bn euro ($270 billion) bailout which it says has damaged the Greek economy after years of imposed austerity.

    Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said he was confident of reaching a deal on overhauling the 
    debt bailout programme in two days.

    "I have no doubt that in the next 48 hours we will find the phrasing" for an accord, Varoufakis said.

    Greece's 18 eurozone partners, led by the influential German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, insist that any change to austerity terms pass within the current programme.

    "There's only one reasonable path, that of a technical extension with flexibilty... to take the Greek people into account," said French Finance Minister Michel Sapin.

    Tsipras swept into power last month on a promise to tear up the bailout agreement, all the while keeping the country in the eurozone.

    To meet that pledge, Tsipras wants the eurozone to ditch the current deal and to agree to four to six months of short-term funding to buy the time to hammer out a new agreement, this time without austerity conditions.



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