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German Finance Minister rejects more time for Greek reforms again
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's finance minister reaffirmed on Saturday his opposition to giving Greece more time to carry out promised reforms, a day after Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras pleaded in Berlin for "more air" to implement the painful measures.
"More time generally means more money and that very soon means a new (bailout) program," Wolfgang Schaeuble told the Tagesspiegel on Sunday newspaper, according to advance excerpts of an interview.
"That would not be the right way to solve the fundamental problems of the euro zone," added Schaeuble, noting that the current bailout program agreed at the end of 2011 totaling 130 billion euros is meant to run for three years.
"If after just half a year that were no longer to be sufficient, that would not be a confidence-building measure."
On Friday, Samaras told German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a one-day visit to Berlin that Greece needed more time, not more cash, to meet the terms of its bailout programme.
Merkel said she wanted Greece to stay in the euro zone but gave no sign of agreeing to his request.
She also said the euro zone must await a report from the 'troika' of international lenders due in October before taking further decisions on Greece - a view reiterated on Saturday by French President Francois Hollande after his talks in Paris with Samaras.
Germany, Europe's biggest economy, has grown increasingly impatient with Greece's failure to carry out reforms demanded in return for loans to stave off bankruptcy.
But a leading member of Merkel's centre-right Christian Democrats, Armin Laschet, said the question of whether Greece stayed in the euro zone carried wider implications beyond the purely economic assessment being prepared by the troika.
"(An exit) could lead to instability in a NATO member state. Russia is standing ready with billions to help Greece in such a scenario... Much more is at stake here than just the question of whether Greece meets the criteria (of its bailout)," he told Reuters in comments authorised for publication on Saturday.
Laschet criticized politicians within Germany's centre-right coalition, including Economy Minister Philipp Roesler, leader of the pro-market Free Democrats, for publicly raising the possibility of Greece leaving the euro zone.
(Reporting by Gareth Jones and Andreas Rinke, writing by Gareth Jones; Editing by Hugh Lawson)
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