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Germany leans on Greece to improve reform plans

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Greece needs to pick up the pace in negotiations with international creditors to get a bailout. Greece is facing bankruptcy but must pacify creditors before receiving a loan.

The message German Chancellor Angela Merkel had for Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the rest of the government in Athens was clear on Thursday. "Every day counts," she said, adding that it's time for Athens to speed things up.

Merkel's comments in Brussels came a day after she and French President Francois Holland

met with Tsipras

to intensify negotiations among Greece and its creditors in a

last-ditch effort

to avoid a Greek default.

"At the end of the discussion, there was absolute unity that Greece will work emphatically and intensely with the three institutes to clear up open questions as much as possible," Merkel said, referring to Greece's international lenders of the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission.

Warning of worse

The head of the German central bank, Jens Weidmann, made similar statements to a London investment seminar on Thursday.

"There is a strong determination to help Greece," the Bundesbank boss said. "But time is running out, and the risk of insolvency is increasing by the day."

He added that while Greece was better prepared for an insolvency scenario than it had been when the threat loomed large in years past.

"The main losers in that scenario would be Greece and the Greek people," Weidmann said.

French Finance Minister Michel Sapinm, however, said Thursday that talks with Greece were "truly on the right track."

"Last night, things moved in the right direction," Sapin said, adding that they would "allow considerable progress in the coming days."

Enough is enough

In Athens, a group of trade union activists occupied the Finance Ministry in protest of the prospect of further cuts that they see as bring imposed on Greece by the country's international lenders. As one of the strongest economies in Europe, Germany is often a particular focus of protesters' anger.

Negotiations to resolve the crisis have been at an impasse over Greece's rejection of its creditors' austerity demands, including cuts in pensions, as a condition for the release of additional bailout funds.

Without the funds, Greece will likely default on a 1.6 billion euro ($1.8 billion) repayment it is scheduled make to the International Monetary Fund by the end of June.

When he was elected in January, Tsipras said the under his Syriza-led government, many of the deep reforms implemented by the previous government to satisfy international creditors would be rolled back.

On Thursday, Tsipras fulfilled a campaign promise of

reopening the country's public broadcaster

, ERT, which had been closed two year ago as part of austerity measures.

mz/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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