Greece rejects 'blackmail', seeks meeting with top EU leaders

Tue Mar 17, 2015 5:45pm EDT
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By Renee Maltezou and Costas Pitas

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wants to meet top European leaders at this week's EU summit, a Greek official said on Tuesday, as Athens insisted it would not be 'blackmailed' over its debt crisis.

Greece risks running out of cash within weeks but its EU partners, angered by the new government's fiery rhetoric against its international bailout, have frozen financial aid until it shows it is implementing reforms.

The leftist government was elected in January on pledges to end austerity measures that came with its 240 billion euro bailout agreement. After acrimonious negotiations in February, Athens got a bailout extension to the end of June and promised not to make any unilateral moves that could burden its budget.

With tensions still running high, Greece attacked comments by Jeroen Dijsselbloem, head of the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers, who said pressure on Athens was growing and an emergency loan depended on real progress on reforms.

He said he wanted no repetition of events in Cyprus in 2013, when "the banks were closed a while, and capital controls - cash flows in the country and out of the country - were tied to all manner of conditions".

Greek government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis accused Dijsselbloem of overstepping his role, saying: "We believe it is unnecessary to remind him that Greece cannot be blackmailed."

Tsipras wants German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi, European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker and French President Francois Hollande to join the meeting on the sidelines of the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

It appears to be the latest effort by Tsipras to hammer out a "political solution" to resolve Greece's funding problems, which are worsening as the country remains shut out of debt markets.   Continued...

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras attends the swearing-in ceremony of newly elected President Prokopis Pavlopoulos (not pictured) at the parliament in Athens March 13, 2015.  REUTERS/Aris Messinis/Pool