Alexis Tsipras has urged his fellow Greeks to vote against a bailout package proposed by Athens' international creditors. Greece faces a Tuesday deadline to repay 1.6 billion euros to the IMF or will be in default.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras appeared on state television Monday, urging his fellow citizens to vote in an upcoming referendum against a bailout package proposed by Greece's creditors.
"We ask you to reject it with all the might of your soul, with the greatest margin possible," Tsipras said. "The greater the participation and the rejection of this deal, the greater the possibility will be to restart the negotiations to set a course of logic and sustainability."
Greece is facing a Tuesday deadline for repaying 1.6 billion euros ($1.8 billion) to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but the bill is likely to be left unpaid as Athens has been unable to reach a deal for an extension with its IMF and eurozone creditors.
Tsipras added that the result of the July 5 referendum on a proposed aid deal with Greece's creditors - the EU Commission, the IMF and the European Central Bank - would be respected, but that his government would not be the one to implement it.
"If the Greek people want to proceed with austerity plans in perpetuity, which will leave us unable to lift our heads ... we will respect it, but we will not be the ones to carry it out," Tsipras said.
Hinting that he could step down if the referendum passed, Tsipras said he was not a prime minister who would remain in place "in all weathers."
Thousands of Greeks on Monday protested the latest bailout proposal by Greece's international creditors
International community urges 'yes' vote
Foreign leaders ramped up the pressure on Greece Monday, urging Athens to accept a bailout deal.
"If the ability to find compromises gets lost, then Europe is lost," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party conference in Berlin Monday. She left the door open to future talks however, even if a majority of Greeks vote against the proposed bailout.
"We will of course not rule out or ignore such negotiations," Merkel said.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called for a "yes" vote, saying that "the message received in the other eurozone members, in the EU, in global society would be that Greece wants to stay together with the other eurozone and EU member states."
US President Barack Obama told French President Francois Hollande in a phone call Monday that Greece should not leave the currency union, and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi sought to make the stakes clear in a tweet on Monday.
But Greeks may not prove receptive to the pleas of foreign leaders. As the drama continued to unfold Monday, thousands of defiant Tsipras supporters took to the streets of Athens, accusing Greece's creditors of blackmail.
At least 20,000 protesters gathered on the main avenue in front of the Greek parliament to voice their opposition to the latest potential bailout deal.
"Our lives do not belong to the creditors!" read placards held high by protestors. Other banners simply said "no!" and "Don't back down."
bw/jr (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)