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Tsipras to Brussels as bailout decision looms

Alexis Tsipras needs to convince his anti-austerity party to allow concessions to the EU and unblock bailout funds. With time running out, Greeks were hopeful they could seal a deal with international creditors.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is scheduled to meet with the leaders of Greece's creditors in Brussels on Wednesday afternoon. Ahead of his June 30 deadline to repay the International Monetary Fund (IMF) around 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) he is expected to hold last-ditch talks with the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Central Bank's President, Mario Draghi, and the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde.

Greece's government defended billions worth of "harsh" new budget savings it has offered in talks with its creditors, while many of the governing party's own lawmakers spoke out against them. The proposed measures worth 8 billion euros ($9 billion) included increases to company and consumer taxes. Eurozone finance ministers were expected to meet on Wednesday evening to discuss these savings, followed by a European Union summit on Thursday and Friday.

Greece offer supposed to pay back more than expected

But government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis still said that the country was close to reaching an agreement ahead of the weekend. He noted that the proposed plans sought to increase taxes on those with higher incomes rather than on low-income families, salaried employees and pensioners.

"The next 48 hours will be decisive," he said, after Monday's emergency eurozone summit had ended on an optimistic note. He referred to the expectation that Athens' latest proposals to its EU and IMF creditors were said to actually exceed expectations. That kind of optimism drove Japanese shares and US stocks up in recent days. Various eurozone markets were also showing strong gains in late afternoon trading in response to these hopeful signs.

Tsipras position as prime minister is also at stake

But Sakellaridis also stressed that there was still a caveat to the positive developments: "If the agreement is not approved by the deputies of the governmental majority, the government cannot remain in place."

Getting approval could turn out to be an uphill struggle for Prime Minister Tsipras, who was elected into office running on an anti-austerity platform, and may risk members of his hard-left Syriza party - as well as his electorate - viewing him as reneging on campaign promises and selling out his country.

ss/bw (AFP, AP)

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