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Eurozone finance ministers gear up for last-ditch talks on Greece

Finance ministers from the countries that use the euro are set to hold last ditch talks aimed at reaching a deal to unfreeze vital bailout funds to Greece. Without a deal, Athens could go into default within days.

The 19 finance ministers from the so-called Eurogroup are to meet yet again on Saturday in a bid to bridge the gap between Athens and its creditors, which has seen the pay out of the last 7.2-billion-euro ($8.1 billion) of Greece's international bailout put on hold.

Greece desperately needs the funds, as it is facing a Tuesday deadline to repay 1.6-billion-euros of its bailout to one of the creditors, the International Monetary Fund. Without the last tranche of its bailout, not only could Athens go into default, but it could trigger a "Grexit," in which Greece would be forced to leave the eurozone and possibly even lose its membership in the European Union.

Saturday's meeting of finance ministers in Brussels follows discussions involving their government leaders at an EU summit that wrapped up on Friday.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on the fringes of the summit, which was also held in Brussels.

Griechenlandkrise Treffen von Angela Merkel, Alexis Tsipras, Francois Hollande in Brüssel

Both sides accuse the other of not compromising

However, Tsipras, who won election in January on a platform of rolling back austerity measures that the previous Greek government agreed to, left the talks saying he rejected "blackmail and ultimatums" demanded by the creditors.

Offer deemed inadequate

For their part, the creditors offered Greece a five-month, 12-billion euro bailout extension to keep Athens afloat until November. But this offer, which Chancellor Merkel described as an "extraordinarily generous offer," was also rejected.

A Greek government statement said the creditors' proposal would "require introducing deeply recessionary reforms as a condition for the funding" and was as such "inadequate."

Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis later expressed frustration with the creditors, accusing them of toughening their demands every time Athens agreed to a concession.

Speaking on Irish public radio, Varoufakis put the onus on the creditors, saying that Greece had "bent over backwards to accommodate some rather strange demands by the institutions. It is now up to them to come to the party."

Tsipras, meanwhile, called an urgent meeting of his cabinet late on Friday to discuss Greece's next move ahead of what could be a make-or-break meeting of finance ministers on Saturday evening.

pfd/bk (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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