x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Greece fights for place in eurozone

Evidence that Athens was now fighting for its place in the 17-nation bloc was hardened by German warnings that Greece could become a "bottomless pit".

ATHENS // Greece fought yesterday to stay in the eurozone, faced with a new ultimatum over a debt bailout while its finance minister issued dire warnings that people were playing with fire.

Evidence that Athens was now fighting for its place in the 17-nation bloc was hardened by German warnings that Greece could become a "bottomless pit".

A separate warning that Greece could sink despite huge budget cuts came from the Greek finance minister, Evangelos Venizelos.

Speaking after eurozone ministers handed him a new ultimatum on rescue conditions, and after weekend rioting in Athens, he revealed the full force of pressures within the Eurogroup of finance ministers.

"We have to tell the Greek people the truth ... There are several [eurozone countries] who no longer want us," Mr Venizelos said.

In a reference to fires that gutted neo-classical buildings in Athens on Sunday, and implicitly to an increasingly hard line from northern European creditors, he warned those who "play with fire, both abroad and inside [the country], some with torches, others with matches."

But Mr Venizelos also promised to come up with the required rescue commitments.

In Germany, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told SWR radio: "We can help but we are not going to pour money into a bottomless pit."