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No bailout breakthrough for Tsipras after late-night meeting with Merkel, Hollande

Alexis Tsipras has met with German and French leaders in an effort to secure additional bailout funds. The talks took place shortly after Standard & Poor's cut Greece's credit rating further into junk territory.

Greek, German and French leaders agreed late Wednesday to intensify negotiations between Greece and its creditors in a last-ditch effort to avoid a Greek default.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande held

crisis talks

with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels late Wednesday.

"We decided to intensify the effort to bridge the remaining differences and proceed - I think will proceed - to a solution," Tsipras said after the talks had concluded. "The European leaders realized that we must offer a viable solution and the chance for Greece to return to growth," he said.

A German government spokesman would only say that the discussions had been constructive.

"It was agreed unanimously that the talks between the Greek government and the institutions (IMF, European Commission and European Central Bank) should be persued with great intensity," the spokesman said.

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 to make to the International Monetary Fund by the end of June.

"The three leaders agreed to intensify the process of bridging the remaining differences aiming to reach a timely deal that would allow Greece to return to growth with social cohesion and a sustainable debt," a Greek government official said at the conclusion of the nearly two-hour meeting.

There were no additional details about what was discussed during the meeting.

Merkel said before the talks took place that she hoped to keep Greece in the eurozone. "Where there is a will, there is a way," she said.

Greek credit rating cut

The push for a breakthrough took place as ratings agency Standard & Poor's announced Wednesday it was cutting Greece's credit rating further into junk territory out of fears the country will default on its debt within a year.

The agency lowered its rating for Greece to "CCC" from "CCC+."

Standard & Poor's said the move reflects "our opinion that in the absence of an agreement between Greece and its official creditors, the Greek government will likely default on its commercial debt within the next 12 months."

bw/bk (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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