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Juncker 'totally opposed' to a Greek euro exit

The head of the Eurogroup, Jean-Claude Juncker, has said he opposes the idea of Greece exiting the eurozone. The finance leader's comments came after meeting with Greece's prime minister in Athens.

Talks in Athens on Wednesday ended with Jean-Claude Juncker, the head of the Eurogroup, telling reporters that he "totally opposed" calls for Greece to leave the eurozone.

The Greek government's "priority number one is the consolidation of the public finances, [along with] a robust and credible strategy for closing the mid term gap," Juncker added.

Juncker had met with Greece's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on Wednesday to discuss the country's current situation.

Prime Minister Samaras is scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on Friday for further talks. On Saturday, he is due to travel to Paris to meet with French President Francois Hollande.

Both Juncker and Merkel told reporters on Wednesday that no decisions regarding Greece could be made until the Troika - auditors from the European Commission, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund - issued its next report. Troika representatives are scheduled to return to Greece in September.

Samaras sends a clear message to Germany

Prime Minister Samaras talked to two major German newspapers on Wednesday, telling the German public of his country's needs and his country's intention to repay every cent of borrowed money.

He first told the German daily Bild that Greece needed "breathing space" to stimulate the country's economy before fully implementing spending cuts tied to Athens' emergency loans.

"Let me be clear," Samaras told the German daily Bild. "We are not asking for additional money. We are sticking to our commitments and are meeting all our requirements."

"We are making progress in structural reforms and privatizations," the prime minister said. "And it is not fair when some people in Europe want to keep pushing us back into this hole."

In comments to the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, the prime minister pledged to the German public that Greece intended to pay back all of the money it had borrowed.

"I guarantee it personally," he said.

'A nightmare for Greece'

In return for its rescue package, Athens is required to reduce the national budget deficit to less than three percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) by 2014. In 2011, the budget deficit stood at 9.3 percent of GDP.

The 11.5 billion euros ($14.3 billion) in budget cuts are expected to hit pensions, social benefits, public sector wages and health care. Some 40,000 civil servants are also expected to lose their jobs. Politicians in Athens have been struggling to reach a deal, with the cuts required in order for Greece to receive the latest trance of around 31.5 billion euros in international loans.

Samaras has rejected a Greek exit from the 17-country eurozone as unacceptable, saying it would be devastating for the country's future.

"It would mean at least five more years of recession and unemployment would rise above 40 percent," Samaras said. "A nightmare for Greece: economic collapse, social unrest and an unprecedented crisis of democracy."

Greece is currently in its fifth year of recession and hit an unemployment rate of around 23 percent in May.

kms, slk/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)