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Greece crisis a problem for Europe, Tsipras says

As Athens moves closer towards a debt deadline, the Greek prime minister has said his country's debt crisis is a problem for Europe. The ECB has meanwhile raised the level of emergency funding to Athens' banks.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Friday that his country's financial problems were a problem for Europe, which needed to "find its way back to its statutory principles: solidarity, democracy, social justice."

"By sticking to policies of austerity and policies which harm social cohesion, which aggravate recession - this is impossible," Tsipras said during an official visit to St. Petersburg in Russia, where he signed a pipeline deal. Moscow also considered the possibility of a loan should Athens ask for it.

ECB raises cash limit

Meanwhile, the European Central Bank (ECB) raised the level of emergency liquidity by an unspecified amount for Athens' banks, which had requested for extra cash to ensure their liquidity.

Athens could avoid the default if it agrees to reforms suggested by the ECB, International Monetary Fund and eurozone ministers. The international lenders have called on Tsipras to reform Greece's value-added tax, and labor and pension systems. But the prime minister and Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis have been reluctant to implement the changes, causing panic in the stock markets and among citizens.

Griechenland und Russland unterschreiben Pipeline-Deal

Tsipras has signed a deal with Russia for extending an oil pipeline

Anxious Greeks pulled out more than 1 billion euros ($1.13 billion) out of their banks on Friday, bringing the total amount of withdrawals to 3 billion euros since last weekend, when the last round of talks between Athens and its creditors broke down.

Yannis Stournaras, the governor of the Bank of Greece, assured the stability of the country's banking system, although he had earlier warned that failure to reach a deal could push Athens out of the euro common currency union and the European Union.

Emergency summit next week

Despite the country edging closer towards a 1.6 billion euro debt default to the IMF and the possible threat of a "Grexit," Tsipras said those "betting on crisis and terror scenarios" would be proven wrong and that a solution "based on respecting EU rules and democracy would allow Greece to return to growth in the euro."

European leaders have planned an emergency meeting to discuss the conditions of the deal with Tsipras on Monday. If Greece agrees to substantial policy changes, it will receive a tranche of 7.2 billion euros - the last installment of its 240 billion euro financial rescue package.

Germany's government has expressed hope that an agreement will be reached.

"It's not too late for this and of course we hope that such an agreement is possible," spokesman Steffen Seibert said in Berlin.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, however, said there were low expectations for Monday's meeting.

"I am skeptical that on Monday the Eurogroup will be able to prepare more than we already have," he said. "We are not all especially enthusiastic."

mg/sms (Reuters, AFP)

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