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Greek PM: Initial Deal in Bailout Talks 'Very Close'

  • Associated Press

A woman walk past Greek flags for sale in central Athens, Greece as it runs perilously short of cash amid an impasse in bailout talks with its international creditors, April 22, 2015.

A woman walk past Greek flags for sale in central Athens, Greece as it runs perilously short of cash amid an impasse in bailout talks with its international creditors, April 22, 2015.

Greece's prime minister voiced hope that bailout talks between the cash-strapped country and its international creditors are "very close" to an initial deal, and ruled out early elections if the marathon negotiations fail.

Alexis Tsipras told private Star TV that he believes a first agreement can be struck by the end of next week, which can then be ratified by Greece's European partners.

"I think we are close,'' he said, in an interview screened just before midnight Monday.

Since its election in January, Tsipras' radical left-led government has been locked in increasingly fraught talks with other European countries that use the euro currency - which provide the bulk of the bailout cash that has kept Greece afloat for five years.

At stake is a final 7.2 billion-euro ($7.8 billion) rescue loan installment, which will enable the country to keep up payments to its creditors - as well as to state employees and pensioners.

Creditors are demanding further reforms and savings, and have encountered strong opposition from Tsipras' government that was elected on promises to alleviate five years of income cuts and fiscal pain.

Tsipras ruled out early elections if the talks fail. But, while insisting he expects an agreement, he did not exclude holding a referendum on the matter.

"If I end up having an agreement that puts me outside the limits (of my mandate), I will have no other resort,'' he said. "The people will decide - obviously without elections, I want to make that clear.''

Earlier Monday, Greece reshuffled its bailout negotiating team following fierce criticism of its flamboyant finance minister, meeting with market applause as investors hoped it will facilitate a deal to save the country from bankruptcy.

Tsipras insisted that Yanis Varoufakis, who has come under fire from his European peers for dragging his feet in the bailout talks, continued to enjoy the government's support. He will continue to lead the negotiations, which have been delayed for three months.

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