Greek PM Tsipras sees EU deal by next week

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Media captionMr Tsipras said any deal beyond the government's mandate would be subject to a referendum

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said Greece is in the final, critical stretch of talks with its international creditors and that he believes an interim deal will be in place by 9 May.

The objective was to find an agreement this week or next week at the latest, he said in a marathon TV interview.

He defended Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who was sidelined from Greece's negotiating team on Monday.

But he admitted mistakes had been made in talks with EU partners.

Since Greece's left-wing Syriza party came to power on 25 January, it has sought to renegotiate the terms of the country's €240bn (£170bn; $260bn) bailout from the IMF and EU.

But its negotiators have so far failed to satisfy Greece's international creditors with the scope of economic reforms required before the EU hands over the latest €7.2bn tranche of the bailout, which the government needs to pay its bills.

Mr Varoufakis was left isolated at an EU finance ministers meeting in Latvia on Friday, skipping a state dinner and tweeting a line from late US President Franklin Roosevelt.

Describing Mr Varoufakis as an important asset for Greece, Mr Tsipras argued that he had annoyed his European colleagues because he spoke their language better than they did.

From now on, Greece's negotiations will be led by another economist in the government, Euclid Tsakalotos.

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Image caption Mr Varoufakis (L), who has angered his EU counterparts, will be replaced in talks by Euclid Tsakalotos (R)


In his three-hour appearance on Greece's Star TV late on Monday night, Mr Tsipras acknowledged there was a "negative atmosphere" surrounding the talks but he suggested it was all a standard part of negotiations.

He was also critical of the government's European negotiating partners, accusing them of reneging on a verbal commitment in February to allow Greek banks to finance the government.

"I believe we are close. I believe that if no-one wants to undermine or torpedo [the talks] we are close to an accepted package," the prime minister said.

There would be concessions, he said, such as the part privatisation of Piraeus port and the leasing of 14 regional airports.

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Greece is facing a €200m debt interest payment to the International Monetary Fund on 1 May and has appealed to various public bodies to provide money from their cash reserves.

But the big debt interest payment to the IMF is due on 12 May, when the government will have to find another €750m.

Almost half the international investors surveyed by German research group Sentix believe Greece will leave the euro in the next 12 months.

Its break-up index for Greece rose from 35.5% in March to 48.8% in April, based on a survey of around 1,000 investors.

Mr Tsipras rejected the idea of snap elections if EU talks failed but he did say that a referendum could be held on a final deal.

"If the solution falls outside our mandate, I will not have the right to violate it, so the solution to which we will come to will have to be approved by the Greek people," he said.

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