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Thursday, February 12, 2015, 10:36

No breakthrough in Greek debt talks

By Associated Press

 No breakthrough in Greek debt talks

BRUSSELS - Talks between Greece and its creditors in the 19-country eurozone broke down Thursday without agreement or even a plan of action on how to move forward on the country's debts and bailout.

Following an emergency meeting of the eurogroup in Brussels, the two sides failed to even issue a statement, a sign that a compromise deal over Greece's debts at next Monday's follow-up meeting will be a struggle.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the head of the eurogroup of finance ministers, said detailed proposals weren't even discussed, adding that there wasn't enough common ground to chart the road to the next meeting.

"It was my ambition to agree on the steps to take the next couple of days so we could spend them well and make more progress between now and Monday,'' he said. "Unfortunately we've not been able to do that so we will continue our talks on Monday and move on from there.''

Europe has been embroiled in another Greek crisis following the election of the radical-left Syriza government last month. The new government was elected on a mandate to drastically reduce the burden of the country's bailout and the associated budget austerity measures, which it blames in large part for the country's economic woes. Despite a recent modest return to growth, the Greek economy is around 25 percent smaller than it was and poverty and unemployment rates have swelled.

Not deterred by the failure to agree to a new plan, Greece's finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, laid out the hope that progress could be made at Monday's meeting.

Varoufakis said a deal at this meeting, his first as finance minister, was never on the cards.

If Belgium's finance minister, Johan Van Overtveldt, is any guide, Monday's meeting could go either way.

"Like it was today it went from left to right and up and down, and so it's hard to take an average of it, but it will continue to be a very difficult discussion,'' he said.

That uncertainty was evident in the government's latest sale of 13-week Treasury bills at a significantly higher interest rate than at a similar sale last month. The higher rate Greece had to pay Wednesday - 2.5 percent against 2.15 percent last time - indicates investors are more worried about Greece not repaying its debts.



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