Greek euro exit 'would be an error'
The departure of Greece from the eurozone would be a "huge political mistake", according to German chancellor Angela Merkel.
In an interview for BBC television's Newsnight, she said it would be "catastrophic" to ask the country to leave the 17-nation group of single currency member states.
After two multibillion-pound bail-outs for Greece - largely funded by Germany - and amid fears that Athens will not be able to stick to severe austerity measures which have triggered months of violent public demonstrations, Chancellor Merkel insisted: "Greece has time and again explained that it wants to remain in the euro. It has major weaknesses but it is trying to overcome them, be they in the administration or the competitiveness of their business community.
"It is going to be a long and arduous road. We have taken the decision to be in a currency union. This is not only a monetary decision, it is a political one. It would be catastrophic if we were to say to one of those who have decided to be with us, 'We no longer want you'."
She said the EU treaties made no provision for excluding a eurozone country, but: "People all over the world would ask, 'Who will be next?' The euro area would be incredibly weakened."
She continued: "It would be a huge political mistake to allow Greece to leave. That is why we will be clear with Greece, we will say 'if you want to be part of a common currency you have to do your homework but at the same time we will always support you'."
The German chancellor, in her first UK broadcast since becoming leader in 2005, said the crisis in the eurozone - and in the wider EU - was not over: "Over the past two years in Europe, particularly in the eurozone, we have learnt a lot. We must reflect time and again, why are we together in Europe?
"It is a very tense situation right now. Europe, and particularly the euro area, is in crisis. It has slithered into crisis as a consequence of the global financial crisis and this has brought about very tough discussions in many countries."
The German leader praised Prime Minister David Cameron's austerity drive: "It is something that each country in Europe can do because we will all learn that no country can live beyond its means.
"Once the markets lose confidence, we pay a heavy price."