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Eurozone Ministers Weigh Greece's Bid To Extend Bailout

A man passes a graffiti in central Athens Friday, as Eurozone finance ministers consider Greece's request to extend the bailout loans that have kept its government afloat.

With the Greek government worried it will run out of money by next month, finance ministers from the Eurozone are meeting in Brussels Friday to decide whether to approve Greece's request for an extension on bailout loans that have kept it afloat.

But even as the negotiations go on, there are reports that Germany and others might be prepared for Greece to leave the Eurozone altogether if it doesn't come to terms.

German newspaper Der Spiegel reports that officials at the European Central Bank have been preparing for a possible Greek exit. And Bloomberg News says "Germany and its allies are ready to let Greece leave the euro unless Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accepts the conditions required," in a story citing the finance minister of Malta.

At this point, it's impossible to tell whether that threat is genuine, or if it's meant to soften Greece's stance in the talks. The recently elected Tsipras has promised to take a hard line against what he deems interference in Greek affairs, campaigning on a promise of ending austerity measures.

Greece made its latest proposal Thursday, just over a week before an extension is due to expire. The request was immediately rebuffed by Germany — but there were signs Friday that the two sides might be working toward a compromise, with a representative of German Chancellor Angela Merkel calling the request "a starting point."

From Athens, NPR's Joanna Kakissis reports:

"The new Greek government said it will go along with most of the bailout agreement, which has given Greece billions in loans.

"But it refuses to enact more austerity measures, because Greek leaders say the deep spending cuts and tax hikes have destroyed the economy. Germany, which has financed most of the loans to Greece, says Greece must stick to austerity or risk losing aid."

Today, Reuters quotes a senior Greek official who says, "We have covered four fifths of the distance, they also need to cover one fifth."

As the Two-Way reported yesterday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble quickly rejected Greece's proposal, despite its inclusion of new concessions.

That rejection "met with ample criticism," news agency Deutsche Welle reports, citing officials in the European Union and Germany's government who said that Greece had offered a viable starting point for a solution.

Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel is quoted by Deutsche Welle saying, "[It is] a giant step by the Greek government to accept that without a program, there won't be aid." He added, "we must all stop issuing ultimatums."

Friday's meeting comes days after both Greece and its European partners walked out of talks after only hours of discussion, a development that led many to wonder if Greece might be headed for bankruptcy or an exit from the Eurozone — or both.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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