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Greece Seeks EU Help to Repay Debt


FILE - Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (left), Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, European Parliament President Martin Schulz and German Chancellor Angela Merkel confer during a European Council summit in Brussels, March 19, 2015.

Talks between Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday were aimed at bridging sharp differences over Greece's tenuous economic future but brought little sign of progress in the standoff.

Tsipras had arrived in the German capital seeking short-term financial aid from the European Union so it could service its $270 billion debt to European creditors in the coming months and keep Athens from falling out of the 19-member eurozone.

After initial talks Monday, both Tsipras and Merkel urged an end to German and Greek cultural stereotypes about "good and bad" eurozone members, saying such labels threaten European unity. That was the extent of progress.

Germany and other creditors are demanding that Greek leaders make and enforce tough spending cuts and implement wide-ranging reforms in exchange for more bailout money.

On Monday, the Financial Times reported it had acquired a copy of a March 15 letter in which Tsipras, in a letter to Merkel, warned that it would be "impossible" for Greece to service its debt in the coming weeks without short-term financial help.

"I am urging you not to allow a small cash flow issue, and a certain 'institutional inertia,' to not turn into a large problem for Greece and for Europe," Tsipras wrote.

The letter said Athens may be forced to choose between loan repayments to the International Monetary Fund or continuing its social spending.

Tsipras' left-wing Syriza party won elections in January, largely on promises to end the deep spending cuts favored by Germany and other eurozone members in exchange for continued EU aid.

Athens later was granted a four-month extension on bailout payments through the end of June. In exchange, creditors demanded a detailed list of reforms before any money is released.

The new Tsipras government agreed last month to a list of reforms, but the government has so far delayed submitting the measures for parliamentary approval.

Merkel wants her Greek counterpart to make and enforce tough spending cuts and reforms before receive more bailout money, the biggest share of which is financed by Germany.