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Tsipras vows not to back down in dead-end talks

GREEK Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras insisted today that he would not compromise in talks with eurozone finance ministers that have so far gone nowhere.

The ministers have so far shut off any avenue for Greece to renegotiate the terms of its bailout, insisting that the country stick to punishing financial rules so that it can pay back foreign creditors — including banks that forced it into the mess in the first place.

But Mr Tsipras told MPs of his Syriza party that he was still hopeful for an “honest and mutually beneficial agreement.”

Mr Tsipras and Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis have both insisted that there is “no plan B” — and have ruled out sticking to their creditors’ austerity or leaving the euro.

Eurozone ministers have given Greece until Friday to ask for an extension to the European part of the bailout, which expires on February 28.

But Athens insists it cannot ask for the continuation of a programme it considers wrong. Instead, it has asked for a “bridging agreement” that would tide it over while it sorts out a new deal.

“We are not hurrying and we are not compromising,” Mr Tsipras said. “We are, however, working hard for … an agreement without austerity and the bailout agreement that destroyed Greece in these past years.”

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, speaking in Brussels, said it was unclear what Greece wanted.

“A lot of colleagues were asking: ‘What do they really want? Do they have a plan?’ I don’t know.”

Greece’s economy has contracted almost a quarter since the financial crisis and the unemployment rate stands at over 25 per cent — and over 50 per cent of young people.

Economists have warned that the Syriza government needs an exit plan, lest it be forced back into the austerity straitjacket.

“There is no doubt that an exit from the EU will initially lead to enormous disruption to Greece’s economy,” said Centre for Economic and Policy Research co-director Dean Baker. “But other countries have worked through a similar adjustment, often with remarkable results.”

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