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Merkel and Hollande meet Tsipras for last-ditch talks

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker as well as the leaders of France and Germany. Athens is locked in a struggle with its creditors over a cash-for-reform deal.

The leaders of Germany, France and the European Commission urged Greece on Wednesday to conclude a deal with the international lenders, as time is running out for Greece to avoid bankruptcy.

Without an agreement with the European Central Bank or fresh money from the EU's bailout fund, the country is likely to default on a 1.6-billion-euro ($1.8-billion) payment to the International Monetary Fund at the end of June.

Tensions have

heightened in recent days

, with Tsipras calling the EU proposals for the deal "borderline insulting," and Juncker accusing the Greek prime minister of misleading his parliament.

However, Tsipras and Juncker seemed to be on friendly terms in Brussels on Wednesday, with the Commission chief hugging and kissing the leftist prime minister as they met at the sidelines of an EU summit with Latin American nations in Brussels. Some EU diplomats described their talks as a reconciliation meeting.

A European Commission spokeswoman said that the encounter was a "short and friendly exchange of views" and said the two agreed to meet again on Thursday.

Hollande: 'go fast'

Tsipras also held a three-way meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on the sidelines of the summit.

"The goal is to keep Greece in the eurozone. I always approach these things with the attitude that if there is a will there is a way," Merkel told reporters earlier on Wednesday.

But for Greece to stay in the eurozone, it needs to conclude technical talks with the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, according to the chancellor.

"The message will be: you've got to continue negotiations with the three institutions," Merkel said.

Hollande urged the EU and Greece to "work, go fast and conclude."

Leftists in a crunch

Among

other demands

, the creditors require new pension and labor market reforms, both extremely sensitive issues for Tsipras' Syriza party.

Even if a deal is reached in the coming days, it would still need to be approved by eurozone finance ministers in Luxembourg and confirmed in several national parliaments.

dj/bk (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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