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Syriza defiant as Tsipras meets Greece's lenders

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras met with international creditors, ahead of a top EU leaders' summit in Brussels to avoid a Greek default. Representatives of Tsipras' Syriza party accused the lenders of "blackmail."

Greece continued its debt talks on Thursday, with technical experts sifting through the latest proposal from Athens in the cash-for-reforms deal. At the same time, Prime Minister Tsipras met with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, IMF chief Christine Lagarde and ECB leader Mario Draghi, in yet another last-ditch push to reach a breakthrough on the bailout row.

Athens needs a deal to unlock more international loans to pay the 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) due to the IMF at the end of the month. A Greek default could push the country toward bankruptcy, destabilizing European markets and dealing significant political damage to the EU.

Despite the mounting pressure, Tsipras' leftist government and its creditors are still bickering over reform proposals.

"The lenders' demand to bring annihilating measures back to the table shows that the blackmail against Greece is reaching a climax," Nikos Filis, the ruling Syriza party's parliamentary spokesman, told Mega TV.

The goal of

Tsipras' talks with the creditors

is to create a deal which could be approved by eurozone finance ministers meeting later on Thursday, and then by the leaders of the 28 European Union members, who are to convene in Brussels on Thursday afternoon.

Greeks 'not biting'

Athens and the international financial institutions differ on pension reform, taxation, labor law, public sector wages and several other issues. Tsipras, who was elected on an anti-austerity platform, also faces huge internal pressure not to budge, with Greeks exhausted by years of budget cuts.

On Wednesday, a Greek government official had said that his country could not accept a new proposal submitted by the creditors, arguing that it "transfers the burden [of austerity] to wage earners and pensioners in a socially unjust manner."

The EU officials also showed

signs of frustration

at the prolonged dispute.

"We do not know if the Greeks even want an agreement," a source in Brussels told news agency DPA. "They are just not biting."

Race against the clock

Despite signs of progress earlier in the week, Tsipras lashed out at creditors just before meeting the international officials on Wednesday, voicing suspicion that they "do not want an agreement or they are serving specific interests in Greece."

On Thursday morning, a Syriza member of the European Parliament, Dimitris Papadimoulis, echoed the party sentiment.

"The lenders' hard core faction does not want a deal but a rift, Greece's humiliation and the fall of the Tsipras government. It won't get its way," he tweeted.

If the deal is reached, it will have to be endorsed in the Greek parliament, as well as by majority votes in the EU member parliaments. One of them is Germany, where the MP's were reportedly told to prepare for a session next Tuesday.

dj/msh (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)

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