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Feb 4, 2015 5:05 AM

Greek leader starts talks with EU debt supervisor

The Associated Press

BRUSSELS (AP) Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras began talks Wednesday with one of his country's main creditors, as the EU awaits a clear signal from the new government on how it plans to pay off its massive debt burden.

Tsipras was welcomed at the European Commission, one of the three main institutions supervising Greece's finances, in Brussels by President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Making light of the tension and expectation surrounding their meeting, the two men clasped hands merrily and marched off swinging their arms, without talking to reporters.

Riding a wave of popular discontent with an EU austerity drive led by economic powerhouse Germany, Tsipras has so far shunned the so-called troika the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Instead, his left-wing government wants to renegotiate Greece's bailout loans, worth 240 billion euros (currently $271 billion), with European governments. The bulk of the loans come from fellow eurozone states, with some also from the IMF.

On the eve of their talks, Juncker underlined that the EU would show flexibility in helping Athens deal with its debts but ruled out wholesale policy changes.

The EU will "have to adapt a certain number of our policies but we are not going to change everything," he told lawmakers.

Ahead of Tsipras's visit, part of a tour just nine days after he was elected to reassure European creditors and test their appetite for his new approach, EU officials have insisted that while the anti-austerity choice of Greek voters must be respected, so must public opinion in the other 18 nations using the euro currency.

Tspiras is due later to hold talks with European Council President Donald Tusk, before heading to France.

Meanwhile Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis in Germany on Wednesday to meet European Central Bank President Mario Draghi in Frankfurt before holding talks Thursday with German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble in Berlin.


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