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Germany won't let Greece off the hook

| Thursday, Feb. 19, 2015, 5:54 p.m.

ATHENS — Germany quickly rejected a conciliatory bailout proposal by Greece on Thursday, dampening hopes that emergency talks might break a deadlock threatening the country with default and an exit from the euro.

The Greek government asked to extend its rescue loan agreement by six months, in order to give all sides more time to hash out a more permanent deal. That goes much of the way toward satisfying an ultimatum from the 19-country eurozone.

It held back, however, on offering to continue implementing a full a series of budget cuts and reforms that the eurozone has required since 2010 in exchange for loans, but that Greece blames for devastating its economy.

Germany was quick to say the plan was not good enough. German Finance Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger said it “is not a substantial proposal for a solution.”

He said it amounts to a request “for bridge financing without fulfilling the demands of the (bailout) program,” namely the budget measures. It does not, he added, correspond to what the eurozone countries had demanded of Greece before talks broke down on Monday.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had a 50-minute phone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday evening, with a Greek official saying the discussion was “in a positive climate and in the direction of finding a mutually beneficial solution for Greece and the eurozone.”

The executive European Commission is somewhat more upbeat than Germany.

Spokesman Margaritis Schinas said Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker “sees in this letter a positive sign which, in his assessment, could pave the way for a reasonable compromise in the interest of financial stability in the euro area as a whole.”

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