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Greek leader discusses bailout deal with Hollande, Merkel

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Sunday spoke with the leaders of France and Germany in their second conference call in three days to discuss progress in the talks between Athens and its lenders, Greek officials said.

The 35-minute call with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel “went very well,” and it was agreed that a deal must be completed very soon, the officials said.

The German government described the conversation as constructive but gave no further details. Similar optimistic statements from Greek officials in the past few days about “technical talks” in Brussels hadn’t been echoed by other parties.

The radical left-led Syriza government that was elected in January is running out of cash. It urgently needs to wind up negotiations with creditors on what reforms it must make to get a vital 7.2 billion euro ($7.8 billion) payment from the bailout plan that has kept it afloat for five years. Otherwise, the country could default within weeks and crash out of the euro currency union.

Following Sunday’s conference call, Tsipras met for two hours with Finance Minister Yannis Varoufakis, who told reporters he was optimistic for a deal “soon.”

Greek TV station Skai reported that Tsipras might join Hollande, Merkel and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Berlin on Monday. German officials said they could not confirm that. Greek officials have not commented.

Greek officials’ repeated comments that a deal is around the corner contrast sharply with an opinion piece by Tsipras published Sunday on the website of French newspaper Le Monde.

In it, Tsipras says it is not a perceived Greek intransigence that has postponed a deal, but the insistence of creditors that Greece follow the path of fiscal austerity.

“Judging from the present circumstances, it appears that this new European power is being constructed, with Greece being the first victim … (this is) the beginning of the creation of a technocratic monstrosity that will lead to a Europe entirely alien to its founding principles,” Tsipras writes.

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Geir Moulson contributed to this report from Berlin.

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