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Greece offers compromise proposals

Hopes of a deal to prevent Greece crashing out of the euro have been raised after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras offered a package of economic reforms, but a final agreement remained out of reach with a deadline looming next week.

Another meeting of the eurozone's finance ministers will take place tomorrow, ahead of a major European Union summit in Brussels on Thursday in an effort to break the deadlock.

The prospect of the Greek crisis dominating the agenda at the European Council meeting on Thursday will be a blow to David Cameron, who hopes to use the summit to press his case for EU reform ahead of the UK's in/out referendum promised by the end of 2017.

Leaders of the 19 eurozone nations met last night to discuss Mr Tsipras's proposals as he attempts to win support before the deadline for repaying a 1.6 billion euro (£1.1 billion) loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the end of the month.

French President Francois Hollande said "we are moving towards an agreement" and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker also sounded hopeful, claiming "we are closer than we ever were before".

But IMF managing director Christine Lagarde said the Greek offer "still lacks specificity" and was "still short of everything we expected".

In the Greek government's compromise proposal, Mr Tsipras is offering about eight billion euro (£5.7 billion) in higher taxes and austerity measures over the next two years in an attempt to gain the approval of the country's creditors - the EU, IMF and European Central Bank.

But several of the measures included in the package go against the anti-austerity commitments which swept his radical left-wing Syriza party to power, potentially causing difficulties in getting support for the package in Athens.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the Greek proposals were a "positive first step forward" and "finally we are speaking the same language".

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "There is a realisation that the clock is ticking and, if anything, the summit has served the purpose of getting a first serious draft on which some discussion can be made."

Stelios Koulogou, a Syriza-supporting independent Greek MEP, told Today: "This language is about austerity, it's nothing but that. It's not about growth, it's not about finding a solution to the main problem which is the debt, which everybody knows is not a debt that can be sustained."

Mr Koulogou predicted that any deal on offer would not represent a lasting solution "unless Tsipras is given agreement on the debt question so he can also sell that agreement to his audience".

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