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Grexit threat remains until Greece secures debt relief deal: PM

The specter of Grexit remains on the table as long as there is still no final agreement on debt relief for Greece, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday, explaining his government's insistence on an immediate solution on the issue.

"Conservatives circles in Europe are still pushing for a Grexit," despite the July 13 agreement and the ongoing talks on a third bailout to keep Greece afloat and in the eurozone, the Greek Leftist leader said during an interview with local radio station "Sto Kokkino" (In Red).

He expressed optimism that Greece could leave the risk behind once for all with a debt relief agreement which could come after the first review of the new program in November. Greece cannot return to international financing markets with this level of debt, he said.

Tsipras argued that the controversial July 5 referendum on the initial agreement creditors had proposed that Greek people rejected gave Greece "a commitment to debt relief."

The Greek leader acknowledged that the referendum was "a risky choice" and that the chances of losing were high with banks closed and capital controls imposed.

"I had no other choice. It was a one way road," he said, explaining that the draft deal lenders' had proposed in late June was too harsh and unacceptable for Greece.

Tsipras reiterated that the referendum did not concern the country's stay or exit from the euro zone. The dilemma was between a disorderly default or a difficult compromise, he said. "People gave us mandate for a better agreement, not Grexit," he stressed.

He underlined that if he had followed his heart and left the table of negotiations in the eurozone summit on July 13 and there was no deal, Greek banks would collapse within 48 hours and deposits would be wiped out.

The Greek premier appeared confident that damage caused by the capital controls since June 29 can be reversed once Greece strikes a final debt deal with creditors.

Replying to his critics who note that the government has made too many concessions and backtracked from pre-election pledges, Tsipras said that the struggle to change things in Greece to the benefit of people continues.

"We never said it would be a walk in the park," he said, stressing that he did not promise people ahead of January's elections that the memoranda signed with lenders since 2010 would be torn with one law.

The premier sent also a strong message to "dissidents" within the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA party who have voted against the July 13 deal and the first rounds of reforms in parliament recently.

Acknowledging that there are "strategic differences" within SYRIZA today, with a part of party deputies openly suggesting an alternative course and return to drachma, he called on lawmakers who do not agree with the government's policies to hand over their seats.

"It is surreal to claim that I support the government, but I vote against its decisions," he said.

He stressed that without parliamentary majority he will be left with no other choice but to call snap national elections.

"I am the last person to want elections, but without majority in parliament I will be forced to go to the polls," he said.

Tsipras granted the interview as envoys of lenders arrived in Athens this week for talks on a technocratic level on the terms of the third bailout.

The goal is to finalize the bailout by Aug. 20, when Greece needs to repay a loan installment to European Central Bank.

[Source: By Maria Spiliopoulou, Xinhua, Athens, 29Jul15]

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