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Greek PM faces hard sell on bailout deal
[ATHENS] Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was on Tuesday to hold meetings with his parliamentary majority, faced with the tough task of selling a new bailout deal that requires Athens to push through draconian reforms within days.
Mr Tsipras needs to secure backing for the deal from the Greek people, parliament and his radical Syriza party, which shot to power in January on the back of promises to end five years of bitter austerity under two previous bailouts.
The agreement struck on Monday to prevent Greece crashing out of the euro requires parliament to make sweeping changes to labour laws, pensions, VAT and taxes by Wednesday, according to the deal document.
Only then will the 18 other eurozone leaders start negotiations over what Greece is to get in return: a three-year bailout worth up to 86 billion euros (S$128.8 billion), its third rescue programme in five years.
"Grexit has gone," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told AFP after the gruelling 17-hour talks, ruling out the threat of a departure from the euro, which could have potentially destabilised the global economy.
In Washington, the White House hailed the deal as "a credible step" on the long path to economic growth and debt sustainability in the hard-up country.
"The agreement reflects a commitment by Greece's creditors to provide financial support and help create a path for Greece to return to growth and achieve debt sustainability," said Josh Earnest, President Barack Obama's spokesman.
A weary Tsipras insisted the deal was good for Greece, even though analysts say the terms are in some respects tougher than those Greek voters had rejected on his recommendation in a referendum just one week ago.
"We fought a righteous battle to the end," Mr Tsipras said.
The deal, Mr Tsipras argued, includes help to ease Greece's huge burden of debt and revive its crippled banking system.
"The great majority of Greek people will support this effort," he added.
The last-ditch deal is aimed at keeping Greece's economy afloat amid fears its cash-starved banks were about to finally run dry and trigger its exit from the single currency.
'HUMILIATION AND SLAVERY'
Many ordinary Greeks are sceptical that the deal will bring about any improvement in their lives and expressed their anger on social media, where the Twitter hashtag #ThisIsACoup trended.
Greece's public servants are also being called to stage a 24-hour strike for Wednesday, the first since Tsipras took power.
Haralambos Rouliskos, a 60-year-old economist who was out walking in Athens, described the deal as "misery, humiliation and slavery".
The eurozone creditors "are trying to blackmail us," said Katerina Katsaba, a 52-year-old working for a pharmaceutical company.
Faced with a deeply distrustful eurozone after five months of tense meetings, the 40-year-old Tsipras had to agree to demands that critics say rob Greece of financial independence.
Europe's first step will be to push the deal through several national parliaments, many in countries that are loath to afford Greece more help.
Germany's Bundestag is likely to vote on Friday, provided the Greek parliament rushes through the four new market-oriented laws by Wednesday.
Despite strong opposition, Mr Tsipras also yielded to a plan to park assets for privatisation worth up to 50 billion euros in a special fund.
Some 25 billion euros of the money in that fund will then be used to recapitalise Greece's cash-starved banks.
Further humiliations came in the form of a return of officials from the widely despised "troika" of Greece's creditors - the European Commission, European Central (ECB) and International Monetary Fund.
There is also a pledge to reverse laws brought in by the Syriza government that run counter to Greece's earlier bailout arrangements in 2010 and 2012.
'NO GOLDEN KEY'
The deal contained little mention of relieving a Greek debt mountain worth 180 per cent of GDP - a step recommended by the IMF - beyond a vague mention that it should be considered later.
The marathon talks also exposed tensions at the heart of the post-war European integration project, especially between hawkish Berlin and dovish Paris, which has been Greece's biggest supporter during the crisis.
French President Francois Hollande hailed Mr Tsipras for making a "courageous choice" despite the political risks at home.
France also led efforts against a German-backed idea for a "temporary Grexit" option, which was dropped from the leaders' statement. Its appearance in an earlier draft marked the first time the idea of a euro member leaving the currency had appeared in black and white.
The eurozone must now unite to tackle the immediate problem of finding funds to keep Greece afloat, as the bailout could take months to finalise.
Eurozone finance ministers at a meeting on Monday considered bridge funding to get Greece through coming weeks when it faces several huge debt payments to the ECB and other creditors.
"We have not yet found the 'golden key' to solve this issue," said Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who was renamed to a second term at the minister talks on Monday.
Despite the deal, Greece missed a second debt payment to the IMF in two weeks on Monday, bringing its total arrears to the Fund to about 2.0 billion euros.
The ECB meanwhile has kept Greek banks afloat with emergency liquidity, but has refused to provide extra funds.
The ECB's governing council on Monday held its emergency liquidity assistance for Greece unchanged at around 89 billion euros.
Banks will stay closed in Greece until Wednesday, the country's finance ministry said in a statement.
Many cash machines already are running dry despite a 60-euros-a-day ATM limit.
Read more on the Greek crisis here