Tsipras denies Greece will seek yet another bailout
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras denied on Friday that Greece would need yet another international bailout, and a poll showed surging support for his government even though it had to back down to win a temporary lifeline from the euro zone.
Tsipras dismissed German suggestions that Greece was trying to blackmail the euro zone. But he said his government had requested a reduction in the country's mountainous debt, despite the insistence of its European and IMF creditors that Athens must meet its obligations in full.
Greece has already received two bailouts totaling 240 billion euros, and Tsipras's radical Syriza party won elections a month ago on promises to walk away from the EU/IMF programs which imposed austerity and reform on a weary nation.
But with the Greek banking system facing the loss of emergency European funding without a bailout deal, Athens had to accept last week a four-month extension to the program which had been due to expire on Saturday.
In a televised speech to his cabinet, Tsipras rejected suggestions that he would be forced to return cap in hand to the international creditors when the temporary deal expires.
"Some have bet on a third bailout, on the possibility of a third bailout in June. I'm very sorry but once again we will disappoint them," he said. "Let them forget a third bailout. The Greek people put an end to bailouts with their vote."
Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan, one of the Eurogroup members who backed the extension, said last week that once Greece was in a "safe space for the next four months", negotiations would begin on a third program.
Greek state finances remain in a serious condition, with tax revenue falling one billion euros below target in January and the country still frozen out of international debt markets.
As Tsipras addressed his cabinet in the parliament building, thousands of KKE communist party supporters waving red hammer and sickle flags demonstrated outside on Syntagma Square.
"From Syntagma we shout with all the strength of our proud soul (for the) immediate cancellation of the bailouts (and) zero tolerance to the new agreement between the government and the European Union," declared KKE leader Dimitris Koutsoumbas.
The rally marked the second anti-government protest in as many days. But the KKE, which has refused to cooperate with the government even though Syriza has its own Marxist wing, won only 5.5 percent of the vote in the Jan. 25 election.
SYRIZA SUPPORT JUMPS
Far from showing disappointment or anger with its retreat, Greeks are rallying behind their new government. A Metron Analysis poll to be published on Saturday showed support for Syriza climbing to 47.6 percent, up sharply from its 36.3 percent share of the vote on Jan. 25.
Syriza fell just short of a parliamentary majority and formed a coalition with the right-wing Independent Greeks party. The latest level of support would allow it to govern alone were an election to be held now.
The poll for the newspaper Parapolitika showed that more than two in three Greeks were satisfied with the way the government was negotiating with EU partners. Seventy-six percent were positive about its overall performance so far.
Tsipras countered the concessions made to the euro zone with brave talk, referring to a "bridge deal" rather than an extension of the bailout that so many Greeks hate. "Our European partners were forced to accept something that until yesterday seemed taboo: that the bailouts ... were not only socially destructive but also economically inefficient," he said.
Without naming names, Tsipras also took a swipe at German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who promised not to let Greece "blackmail" its euro zone partners as the parliament in Berlin approved the extension on Friday.
"We managed to agree with our partners a four-month bridge deal in order to renegotiate, honestly and without blackmail," he said.
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