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Tsipras sends new plans to Brussels as EU warns Greece on brink
[ATHENS] Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is sending a delegation to Brussels with a new set of proposals for Greece's creditors following a barrage of demands to get serious about making concessions or assume responsibility for a default.
With markets closed, the negotiators arrive Saturday to meet with officials from the trio of lenders withholding money unless their demands are met. The aim is to narrow differences on pension, tax and a primary surplus target ahead of a meeting of finance ministers on Thursday in Luxembourg, according to a Greek official speaking on condition of anonymity.
European leaders from German Chancellor Angela Merkel to European Union President Donald Tusk have voiced growing exasperation with Greece's brinkmanship that has pushed Europe's most-indebted country on the edge of insolvency.
Flitting between intransigence and conciliatory overtures, Mr Tsipras has spent four months locked in an impasse with institutions that have the power to save his country from ruin - the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission. The latest Greek counter-proposal is the second in June. The first was roundly dismissed.
Bank stocks plunged Friday after Greece ruled out pension cuts. That stance followed a warning by EU officials that it had less than 24 hours to come up with firm debt proposals, two officials present said. A Greek official speaking on condition of anonymity denied the government was handed an ultimatum.
With a deadline for a deal looming, Ms Merkel told Mr Tsipras it's time to accept the framework for financial aid. Greece's bailout extension expires June 30 and some national parliaments need to ratify any agreement before funds can be disbursed, which narrows the window for a deal.
"Where there's a will there's a way, but the will has to come from all sides," Mr Merkel said in a speech in Berlin. "That is why I think it's right that we talk to each other again and again.'
Not everyone was good at hiding their frustration. Earlier in the week, Mr Tusk rebuked Mr Tsipras for dragging his feet on a debt agreement and the IMF team left Brussels, voicing despair over Greece's tactics.
''If the Greek government isn't willing to take difficult measures, even if they're unpopular, then Greece will never be saved," Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who leads the euro-area finance chiefs' meetings, told reporters in The Hague on Friday. "We've repeatedly explained to the Greeks how little time there still is."
With the pressure mounting, Mr Tsipras spoke to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on the phone about the immediate next steps, according to a Greek government official, who asked not to be named in line with policy.
"There is no more time for gambling," Mr Tusk told reporters in Brussels on Thursday. "The day is coming, I am afraid, that someone says the game is over."
Greece is ready to speed up talks as its creditors have demanded and is aiming to reach an agreement in the next few days, government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis said in an e- mail on Thursday as Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis pushed back against Mr Tusk's criticism.
"Contrary to stubborn rumours, we never gambled," Mr Varoufakis said on Twitter.