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Greece bailout: Varoufakis ‘willing’ as talks collapse

Greece’s Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis declared he was ready to do “whatever it takes” to reach agreement over its bailout after the collapse of talks with EU finance ministers.

Mr Varoufakis spoke after Greece rejected an EU offer to extend its current €240bn (£178bn) bailout, a plan he called “absurd” and “unacceptable”.

He said he was prepared to agree a deal but under different conditions.

But the head EU negotiator warned there were now just days left for talks.

Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem said it was now “up to Greece” to decide if it wanted more funding or not.

“My strong preference is and still is to get an extension of the programme, and I think it is still feasible,” Mr Dijsselbloem told a press conference after the talks collapsed.

Greece’s current bailout expires on 28 February. Any new agreement would need to be approved by national governments, so time is running out to reach a compromise.

Without a deal Greece is likely to run out of money. Mr Varoufakis said there was still “substantial disagreement” on whether the task ahead was to complete the current programme, which Greece’s newly elected government has pledged to scrap.

He dismissed the promise of “some flexibility” in the programme as “nebulous” and lacking in detail.

Speaking at a news conference after Mr Dijsselbloem, he said he had been presented with a draft communique by Pierre Moscovici, the EU’s economics commissioner, which he had been ready to sign.

However, that draft had been withdrawn minutes before the meeting started, Mr Varoufakis said.

But he sought to play down the setback as a temporary hitch.

“Europe will do the usual trick: It will pull a good agreement or an honourable agreement out of what seems to be an impasse.'” Two pressing financial issues loom over Greece: whether the government can pay its bills and the stability of the banks.

Greek officials have said the government could keep going for several months, but there are doubts. How long it takes depends to a great extent on Greek taxpayers.

The banks have already seen money being withdrawn and increasingly need central bank loans. If there is no bailout programme, the European Central Bank could pull the plug on the banks.

If it came to that, it really would mean a major financial crisis, with perhaps the imposition of extensive financial controls to prop up the banks and possibly even the re-introduction of a national currency.

It’s hard to nail down a date by which an agreement must be done to avert some sort of financial Armageddon, because it depends on the actions of taxpayers, bank customers and the ECB. But time is getting short. (BBC)

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