Greece says will not cooperate with 'troika' or seek aid extension

Greece says will not cooperate with 'troika' or seek aid extension
Tourists stand near the temple of Parthenon atop the ancient site of the Athens Acropolis on a cold and windy day January 30, 2015. Greece will refuse the planned return of European Union and International Monetary Fund inspectors to the country since the new government rejects the 240-billion-euro bailout programme, a government official told Reuters on Friday.

ATHENS - Greece's new leftist government opened talks on its bailout with European partners on Friday by flatly refusing to extend the programme or to cooperate with the international inspectors overseeing it.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' government also sacked the heads of the state privatisation agency after halting a series of state asset sales.

The politically unpopular policy of privatisation to help cut debt is one of the conditions of Greece's 240-billion-euro bailout that has imposed years of harsh austerity on Greece.

Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis met Jeroen Dijsselbloem, head of the euro zone finance ministers' group, for what both men described as "constructive" talks. But Greek media seized on signs of frosty body language between them and the hour-long meeting appeared to do nothing to bridge the gap between them.

The meeting marks the start of Athens' drive to persuade its creditors to ease the strict terms of the bailout. It precedes planned visits by Tsipras and Varoufakis to London, Paris and Rome next week.

Although neither France nor Italy has shown any sign of accepting the new Greek government's demand to write off part of its 320 billion-euro debt, they have both previously called for a change of course from German-style budget austerity.

Tsipras has repeatedly said he wants to keep Greece in the euro but he has also made clear he will not back away from election campaign pledges to roll back the terms of the bailout.

His government, winner of last Sunday's election, has raced ahead with a series of anti-bailout moves including reinstating thousands of public servants laid off by the previous government as well as cancelling privatisations.

But Germany, Europe's paymaster, is also digging in.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said Berlin was open for talks with the new government about its debt, but he also made clear that Athens had to do its part.

"We need solidarity in Europe, and besides we cannot be blackmailed," Schaeuble said.

After a volatile week in which banking stocks fell by as much as 40 per cent, financial markets fell back after recouping some ground on Thursday. The main Athens stock market index was down 1.6 per cent .ATG. Greek 10-year yields GT10YT=TWEB were down 22 basis points at 10.37 per cent but still well above levels seen before Sunday's election.

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