(Adds Dijsselbloem comments on deadline for bailout extension)
* Greece said to want "bridge agreement" on finances
* Athens rejects any more bailout money, wants loan
* Varoufakis empty-handed after European tour
* Eurogroup sets Feb 16 deadline for bailout extension
By Lefteris Papadimas and Jan Strupczewski
ATHENS/BRUSSELS, Feb 6 Greece's new leftist-led
government, isolated in the euro zone and under pressure from
the European Central Bank, said on Friday it wanted no more
bailout money with strings attached from the European Union and
International Monetary Fund.
Instead, a government official said, it wanted authority
from the euro zone to issue more short-term debt, and to receive
profits that the European Central Bank and other central banks
have gained from holding Greek bonds.
The official said Greece was in effect asking for a "bridge
agreement" to keep state finances running until Athens can
present a new debt and reform programme, "not a new bailout,
with terms, inspection visits, etc.".
"It is ... necessary that Greece is given the possibility to
issue T-bills, beyond the (current) 15 billion euro threshold,
in order to cover any extra needs," said the official, asking
not be named.
Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis returned empty-handed from
a tour of European capitals in which even left-leaning
governments in France and Italy insisted Greece must stick to
commitments made to the European Union and IMF and rejected any
The Athens official made clear that the new government,
which came to power on a wave of anti-austerity anger in
elections last month, now wanted to forego remaining bailout
money that had austerity strings attached:
"Greece is not asking for the remaining tranches of the
current bailout programme - except the 1.9 billion euros that
the ECB and the EU member states' central banks must return."
Euro zone finance ministers will discuss how to proceed with
financial support for Athens at a special session next Wednesday
ahead of the first summit of EU leaders with the new Greek prime
minister, Alexis Tsipras, the following day.
However, the chairman of the finance ministers said the
following meeting of the Eurogroup on Feb. 16 would be Greece's
last chance to apply for a bailout extension because some euro
zone countries would need to consult their parliaments.
"Time will become very short if they (Greece) don't ask for
an extension (by then)," said Jeroen Dijsselbloem.
The current bailout for Greece expires on Feb 28. Without it
the country will not get financing or debt relief from its
lenders and has little hope of financing itself in the markets.
NO PROGRESS SO FAR
Participants said no progress was made at a preparatory
meeting of senior finance officials in Brussels on Thursday
because Greece and its euro zone partners were so far apart.
"It was Greece against all others, basically one versus 18,"
one official said.
Athens' partners broadly lined up in support of a hardline
German document rejecting any roll-back of reforms or
commitments made by previous Greek governments.
Tsipras and his ministers promised in their first days in
office to raise the minimum wage, re-hire some sacked government
employees and stop some privatisations.
This clashed with conditions set by the IMF and euro zone
countries, which have lent Athens a total of 240 billion euros
The ECB raised the stakes this week by deciding to bar Greek
banks from using Greek government bonds as collateral to borrow
from the central bank as long as there is no prospect of an
agreed bailout programme.
That makes lenders dependent on more costly emergency
liquidity from the Greek central bank, which the ECB can stop at
Greek bank shares fell further on Friday at the end of a
week of wild swings, as brokers cut their forecasts on worries
over dwindling deposits and brinkmanship between Athens and its
Ratings agency Standard & Poor's added to Greece's
discomfort by cutting its long-term sovereign debt to 'B minus'
from 'B', citing liquidity constraints weighing on Greece's
Portugal, which emerged from its own EU/IMF bailout last
year, joined the chorus of countries insisting that Greece must
stick to the austerity medicine as Lisbon had done, pay its
debts, and respect past agreements with EU partners.
NOT THE EASIEST ROUTE
Economy Minister Antonio Pires de Lima told the Reuters Euro
Zone Summit that Lisbon had chosen a route "which was not the
easiest one" to recover credibility and return to growth, and
"that is also our attitude to the situation in other countries".
Varoufakis was expecting tough treatment from his partners
at next Wednesday's meeting.
"It's expected, obviously there is pressure as part of a
dynamic situation, we are in a negotiation. But we believe that
we will reach a mutually beneficial solution soon," said a
separate official from the prime minister's office.
Before then, Tsipras will deliver a policy speech to
parliament on Sunday and seek a vote of confidence on Tuesday,
which he is likely to win easily.
Euro zone officials say Greece is free to design its own
reforms in line with Syriza's campaign promises, as long as the
result is in line with commitments to stronger public finances,
debt repayment and reforms.
Time to reach a deal is short. Some analysts say Greece
could run out of cash as early as March without further euro
"Greece's financing needs over the next five years may
amount to 30-35 billion euros," Italy's Unicredit bank said in a
"However, if we set the primary surplus at 1-1.5 percent of
GDP and assume that privatisations will stop, as requested by
the Greek government, overall financing needs would rise to 60
billion euros," Unicredit said.
Both Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank said their base case
was that Greece would remain in the euro zone, but a rise in
deposit outflows had raised the risk of a crisis.
(Additional reporting by Jeremy Gaunt and Costas Pitas in
Athens and Lionel Laurent in London; Writing by Paul Taylor and
Jeremy Gaunt; Editing by Giles Elgood, Kevin Liffey and Toby