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US urges Greece debt negotiators to 'set aside rhetoric'

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US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew urged on Friday all sides in Greece debt talks to focus on finding a solution to the crisis that risks pushing the eurozone country into default.

[WASHINGTON] US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew urged on Friday all sides in Greece debt talks to focus on finding a solution to the crisis that risks pushing the eurozone country into default.

Mr Lew spoke by phone Friday with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to discuss the latest developments, a day after Mr Tsipras laid out his plans to European leaders in Brussels to overhaul the country's international bailout.

Mr Lew "urged all parties to set aside rhetoric and focus on reaching a pragmatic path forward," the Treasury said in a statement.

The US Treasury chief told Mr Tsipras that he looked forward to working with the new Greek government "as it proceeds to articulate a concrete and comprehensive reform agenda in partnership with Europe and international institutions." He welcomed the fact that Greece and its partners were engaged in technical discussions, the department said.

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Greece began tough negotiations with its creditors Friday as hopes rose that a make-or-break meeting with eurozone financial ministers Monday could reach a new debt deal.

The new anti-austerity Greek government is demanding a replacement agreement to its 240-billion-euro (US$270-billion) bailout from the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The bailout is due to expire at the end of February, and failure to reach a replacement agreement could trigger a Greek default and a chaotic exit from the euro.

In his phone call with Mr Tsipras, the department said, Mr Lew noted that Monday's Eurogroup meeting "marks a significant opportunity to achieve concrete progress."

AFP

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