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Europe and Greece inch forward on debt deal

EU leaders were meeting in Brussels for a last-ditch attempt to save Greece from leaving the eurozone. While largely welcoming Greece’s commitments, there seemed to be little enthusiasm for its debt repayment plans.

Eurozone leaders said they hoped to finally

seal a Greek bailout deal

this week to save Athens from default and from a possible exit from the euro ahead of a

June 30 deadline

. But they still evaded the issue on how to get Greece to fully repay its towering debts. European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said it "wasn't the time to discuss" details pertaining to the debt question.

Merkel hopeful, but Schäuble pessimistic

Germany also seemed reluctant to address Greece's debt issue after Monday's summit in Brussels. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the question "was not open for debate," adding that there were still a lot of days left to come to a decision during the summit.

Merkel said that while Greece's plans were a "good starting point for further talks", it was also clear that there was still a lot of work ahead. She also ruled out any question of debt reduction, as Greece has demanded, and said the leaders had not discussed any possible extension of the Athens bailout.

But German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble was much more pessimistic about the outlook, telling reporters that he had seen nothing really new from Greece.

European Union considers "Grexit" a real possibility

European Council President Donald Tusk, meanwhile, who was chairing the emergency summit of leaders of the 19-nation currency bloc, called Greece's proposals "a positive step forward".

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had offered about 8 billion euros ($9 billion) in higher taxes and austerity measures over the next two years - several of which would go against his election promises. But he also

expected further reassurances from Europe

.

A "Grexit" from the Eurozone would be painful for Greeks, whose economy has nevertheless strengthened for years under the single-currency market. But several European countries have said publicly they are getting prepared for the possibility of Greece leaving the Eurozone, as Greece's debt pile stands at a towering 180 percent of GDP.

Greece has to repay the International Monetary Fund 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) by June 30 or be declared in default. This could trigger a bank run and capital controls.

"We will work very hard in the next few days - the institutions with the Greek government - to get that deal this week," Eurogroup chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem said. He said the the finance ministers could not make a decision until Greece ironed out details with its creditors: the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

ss/bw(AFP, AP)

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