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Greek finance minister says willing to sign different finance deal

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis said on Monday he had been prepared to agree to a deal with creditors that would have given Athens four to six months additional credit in return for putting major new budget policies on hold.

He said the European Commission had put such a suggestion to him before Mondays meeting of euro zone finance ministers but that it had been superseded by a different draft proposal – from Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem – that he could not sign because it obliged Athens to extend its current bailout package.

Dijsselbloems proposal was highly problematic, he said.

We were offering to refrain effectively from implementing our own program for a period of six months and all we were getting back was a nebulous promise of some flexibility that was never specified, Varoufakis told reporters.

Under those circumstances it proved impossible for the Greek government, despite our infinite good will, to sign the offered communique. And so the discussions continue.

A Commission official said EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici had contributed ideas in discussions with Varoufakis but that only the Eurogroup proposal was the object of negotiations.

Varoufakis said he remained ready to sign a proposal based on Moscovicis ideas.

I was prepared to sign it this morning, this afternoon, I would sign it at midnight, tomorrow at 9 in the morning. I would even consider signing some (other) version of it because the point here is not to allow an impasse.

While many of the other finance ministers present at the talks expressed disappointment and worry over their failure, Varoufakis said negotiations in the room were conducted in a collegial spirit.

Their purpose, he said, was to establish an interim programme over the next four to six months in order to reach a meaningful, sustainable new long-term contract between Greece and Europe and with the IMF.

He said he was optimistic a deal would be struck within the next 48 hours.

Europe will do the usual trick. It will pull a good agreement, an honorable agreement, out of what seems to be an impasse, he said.

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou, Ingrid Melander and Jan Strupczewski; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Alastair Macdonald and Paul Taylor)

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