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Ahead of meeting Merkel, Juncker warns on Grexit

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has warned of the consequences of Greece leaving the euro. His comments come ahead of a meeting with the German and French leaders in Berlin on Monday.

In an article published in Monday's edition of the "Süddeutsche Zeitung," European Commission President Juncker said a Greek exit from the eurozone could damage trust in the single currency.

"I don't share the idea that we will have fewer worries and restraints if Greece gives up the euro," Juncker said. If a country were to withdraw from the euro, "it would fix the idea in heads that the euro is not irreversible," he added.

Juncker is due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande in Berlin on Monday. He told the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" that Greece would be on the agenda, although it was not the official reason for the talks.

On Sunday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras spoke by telephone with the leaders of France and Germany in their second conference call in three days to discuss progress in the talks between Athens and its lenders, Greek officials said.

Greece needs to complete negotiations on a 7.2-billion-euro ($7.8 billion) payment from the bailout plan that has kept its finances afloat for the last five years. Otherwise, the country could default within weeks and crash out of the euro currency union.

Tspiras in 'Le Monde'

On Sunday, in an article on the website of French daily newspaper "Le Monde," Tsipras blamed "absurd proposals" of creditors for the failure to reach a deal that could release emergency aid to avert default. He cited the uncompromising approach of the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for five months of fruitless negotiations.

"The lack of an agreement so far is not due to the supposed intransigent, uncompromising and incomprehensible Greek stance," he wrote. "It is due to the insistence of certain institutional actors on submitting absurd proposals and displaying a total indifference to the recent democratic choice of the Greek people."

For his part, Juncker warned an exit of Greece from the euro, a "Grexit," could prompt international investors to pull out of Europe. The EC head said Japan's prime minister had told him that Japan's investment in Europe depended on having confidence in the European currency.

Juncker also called on the IMF to continue to support Greece. "It won't work without the IMF," Juncker said, adding that the German government had made the IMF's participation in the 2010 bailout program a particular condition for aid to Greece.

jm/cmk (AP, Reuters)

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