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EU to study latest Greek proposals

A resolution to the Greek debt crisis has been deferred yet again as European officials began examining the latest proposals from Athens to prevent the country crashing out of the euro.

Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem - who chairs the eurozone group of finance ministers - said the new plan from the left-wing Syriza government had arrived too late for them to be able to consider it properly at what were supposed to be make-or-break talks today.

He said that EU officials would now carry out a detailed scrutiny of the proposals ahead of new talks later this week intended to reach a final agreement to the long-running saga.

"The work can start immediately as far as we are concerned," he said.

"If necessary - and if all goes well, it will be necessary - the euro group will have another meeting later this week to hear from the final outcome of the talks with the Greek authorities."

His announcement meant that the leaders of the 19 eurozone group countries heading to Brussels for an emergency summit tonight were facing the prospect of a wasted journey.

Instead, the focus now shifts to the full EU summit taking place on Thursday and Friday.

On another day of chaos, the Greek government added to the confusion by sending two versions of its latest plan, hammered out over the weekend, to begin reducing the country's debt mountain.

There was frustration among the eurozone finance ministers - gathered in Brussels ahead of the leaders' summit - at the continued lack of progress.

Germany's hawkish finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble - who is widely thought to believe that Greece should leave the euro - complained: "We have so far received no substantive proposals."

Irish finance minister Michael Noonan added: "We are still not quite clear what the proposals are."

Arriving in Brussels, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras insisted that his government's latest proposals offered a "viable" solution that would allow the country to return to economic growth.

"This is time for a substantial, viable solution that allows Greece to come back to growth within the eurozone with social justice," he said.

Mr Dijsselbloem said that the initial view of the technical experts was that it was a "broad and comprehensive" plan which would provide a basis for the resumption of talks after they broke down last week amid bitter recriminations.

"They really need to look at the specifics to see whether it adds up in fiscal terms, whether the reforms are comprehensive enough for the economic recovery to take off again," he said.

The latest delay leaves the Greek government desperately short of time to come up with a settlement that could satisfy its creditors.

Unless Athens is given access to new bailout funds it will be unable to make a 1.6 billion euro payment due to the IMF on June 30, potentially triggering a catastrophic financial collapse that could see it forced out of the euro.

In Greece, depositors were continuing to withdraw funds from the banks which are only being kept afloat by the support of the European Central Bank.

Greek economy minister Giorgios Stathakis said he was confident the latest plan would provide the basis for a settlement with the country's creditors once the "minor details" have been resolved.

"They have accepted that the new proposals of the Greek government is a proper framework on which to work on. With some adjustments that will be the issue of discussion for the next day or so," he told BBC News.

He said that the plan involved an increase in taxes on business and "the wealthier part of society" while protecting pensions and wages - a "red line" issue for Syriza.

"The red line is no further cuts in pensions and wages. We stick to this idea and I think we came up with alternative propositions which ... are accepted," he said.


From Belfast Telegraph