Reuters

(Reuters)

Greek PM: Nation Won't Compromise with Eurozone

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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Tuesday his government would not succumb to "blackmail" and would instead quickly start voting in new laws to reverse bailout reforms.

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In a combative speech, he signaled little intention of backing down Greece's clash with its euro zone partners, despite a looming financial crisis.

Ignoring calls from across Europe to compromise on a plan to extend Greece's bailout program, Tsipras said he was confident a deal on the country's future would ultimately be found but that Athens would not climb down from its pre-election pledges.

"We are not in a hurry and we will not compromise," Tsipras told his party's lawmakers in parliament.

"We are working hard for an honest and mutually beneficial deal, a deal without austerity, without the bailout which has destroyed Greece in recent years, a deal without the toxic presence of the (bailout inspecting) troika".

As if to drive home his point, Tsipras said parliament would start voting in bills this week to implement campaign pledges of protecting primary residences from foreclosures and banning the sale of mortgage loans to distressed funds.

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A bill reversing labor reform and restoring collective bargaining agreements scrapped by European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders would soon be presented alongside another one to deal with the "humanitarian crisis" in Greece, he said.

"There has been a custom that newly-elected governments act differently from their pre-election promises," he said. "I am saying it again, we are thinking of actually implementing our promises for a change."

That appeared to contradict suggestions late on Monday that Athens was willing to refrain from unilateral action and not reverse existing commitments for an interim period.

The comments came a day after crunch talks with euro zone partners broke down in acrimony and raised the risk of Greece facing a full-blown crisis that could force it to impose capital controls or put it on the path out of the euro.

Attacking developments at the meeting, Tsipras said the Greek side was made aware of a common statement that would be adopted that it was willing to accept before it was abruptly changed 15 minutes before the meeting started to a text that Athens strongly disagreed with.

That "provocative" statement showed that there were European circles that wanted to undermine the Greek government, he said.

Tsipras also took aim in his speech at German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who has been unbending in his opposition to Greek plans to ditch austerity.

"German Finance Minister (Wolfgang) Schaeuble yesterday lost his cool. Not because he spoke up against the Greek government because that is his right, but he spoke condescendingly towards the Greek people," Tsipras said.

"I want to say that it would be better for him to pity people who walk with their heads bowed ... not to pity people who hold their heads up high with pride."

Tsipras said, however, that a cartoon in a pro-Syriza newspaper depicting Schaeuble as a Nazi did not represent his government's views.

Ultimately, a deal to rescue Greece would be found by European leaders rather than "technocrats", Tsipras said, in a sign that Athens is waiting for heads of state to step in to resolve the bitter dispute that has so far been tasked to euro zone finance ministers.

Tsipras stormed to power late last month on a pledge to end austerity and cancel a bailout program that many Greeks blame for driving up unemployment and eroding their living standards.

"For us it is a moral and humanitarian priority to repay the debt to the people who suffer, this is our primary debt," Tsipras said.

(Additional reporting by Angeliki Koutantou, Karolina Tagaris and Lefteris Papadimas Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)