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Germany's von der Leyen urges more 'steadfastness' towards Greece

Red lines should not be "drawn too soon," German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen told the Bild newspaper, ahead of a key meeting on Greece. She said Europe would overcome the challenge and emerge even stronger.

As political leaders across Europe prepare for yet another emergency summit on Greece's future on Monday, there are

finally signs of progress in the bailout talks

after weeks of deadlock.

Speaking in the Monday edition of Bild mass-circulation newspaper, German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Germany should ensure that joint rules are upheld, but also that nobody was "left behind."

"We should not draw red lines too soon," von der Leyen warned. "We've been successfully building Europe for 70 years. The new Greek government is only in power for five months, and should understand that they also need to respect rules of Europe. No matter what they promised to their voters. Anything else would weaken the European Union."

"If we gave up on our principles now, no EU country would have a reason to follow joint agreements. The negotiation with Greece should proceed with more steadfastness," according to the German defense minister.

Von der Leyen

, who some consider a candidate to one day succeed current Chancellor Angela Merkel, also said she had no fears for the EU's future.

"Europe is facing a litmus test. But I am convinced: we will pass this test. It will make us even stronger. Whenever things got serious in the past, Europe rallied around its joint values. This will also happen now."

Bild pushing for "Grexit"

Von der Leyen's relatively upbeat message stood in contrast to that of Germany's highest-circulation newspaper. In an commentary signed on behalf of Bild's editorial team, printed next to the Von der Leyen interview, Bild criticized the international policies which have kept Greece in the eurozone.

"We in Bild believe that this policy is ineffective, expensive and mistaken from the start," the influential paper says, commenting on the upcoming Monday summit.

If the European institution backed down before requests of Prime Minister Tsipras and his leftist government, it would boost support to extreme leftist parties in Europe, the paper claims in an article headlined: "Why BILD is for a Grexit."

The paper also points out that "Greece is practically bankrupt," stressing that the Greek pensions "cannot be paid anymore without money from Germany".

Finally, the editorial recommends "Grexit" as the best solution to the current crisis, saying "an exit from the euro is no exit from Europe."

dj/msh (Reuters)

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