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Eurogroup talks postponed as ministers search for common ground

As the 11th hour of bailout talks approaches, will Greece and its creditors agree on a bailout deal? The Eurogroup is expected to reconvene on Thursday after finance ministers suspended talks after just one hour.

It only took an hour for eurozone finance ministers to call an end to crisis talks on Wednesday. The summit was expected to pave the way for a "final deal" ahead of Greece's impending deadline to repay the International Monetary Fund (IMF) 1.6 billion euros ($1.79 billion) by June 30.

Finland's Finance Minister Alexander Stubb made the announcement that talks would continue on Thursday.

Despite calling an early end to what many expected to be a long night of negotiations, Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem said finance ministers were still "determined" to reach a deal on Thursday, the AFP news agency reported.

"We have not reached agreement yet. But we are determined to continue our work towards doing what is necessary," Dijsselbloem told reporters after the talks ended.

However, widening rifts continue to postpone a deal between Greece and its creditors - European Central Bank (ECB), EU, and IMF - with the latter taking the harshest stance against the Greek government's proposals.

Backing 'special interests'?

In an interview with French magazine "Challenges," IMF chief Christine Lagarde said Greece's proposals could not solely be built on increasing tax revenues, adding that European creditors also needed to take steps to make the crisis-stricken country's debt sustainable.

"You can't build a program just on the promise of improved tax collection, as we have heard for the past five years with very little result," Lagarde told the magazine on Wednesday.

During the interview, Lagarde said she did not want Greece to exit the eurozone, but added that if that did occur, she did not believe it would to an "explosion" of the eurozone.

However, Tsipras said earlier Wednesday that "certain" creditors were undermining Greece's proposals by outright rejecting fiscal measures to patch up a budget gap, similar to those accepted by the IMF when Ireland and Portugal were in a similar situation.

"The repeated rejection of equivalent measures by certain institutions never occurred before - neither in Ireland nor Portugal," the Greek prime minister said in a tweet.

"This odd stance seems to indicate that either there is no interest in an agreement or that special interests are being backed," Tsipras wrote.

'Moral obligation' vs. public opinion

Addressing lawmakers ahead of an EU summit slated for Thursday and Friday, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said the monetary union had a "moral obligation" to help Greece with a bailout deal. Renzi's view runs contrary to a strain of public opinion in some countries that want a stauncher stance for continued austerity measures in the Greece.

"There is a great pressure from part of the European public opinion, from some countries in particular, to use this window that is opening as an opportunity to close down with Greece, get rid one and for good of the presence of Greece in the eurozone," the Italian leader said on Wedesday.

If an agreement is reached, it would unlock 7.2 billion euros in bailout funds, allowing Greece to avoid a default on its IMF loan, which would likely force the country to exit the eurozone and possibly even the EU.

ls/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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