* Conservative Interior Minister warns Greece before vote
* Greece must honour promises, Friedrich says
By Erik Kirschbaum
BERLIN, May 26 Germany will not "pour money into
a bottomless pit" and patience with Greece is growing thin ahead
of a new election in the Mediterranean country, a conservative
member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet was quoted on
Saturday as saying.
Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told the Leipziger
Volkszeitung newspaper that Germany, Europe's largest economy
and the biggest contributor to rescue efforts, is glad to help
Greece help itself but expects it to honour its agreements.
"We're not willing to pour money into a bottomless pit," he
told the newspaper.
"Anyone who wants to see help and solidarity from us has to
accept that we expect from that country a certain amount of
seriousness and a certain amount of reasonableness."
Friedrich, who has long been a hardliner in Merkel's cabinet
on Greece, became the first German minister in February to
openly call for the country to leave the euro zone.
While his latest comments appear to be aimed at placating
Germans who are increasingly anxious about the Greek situation,
they are likely to reopen old wounds with Athens.
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble also called Greece "a
bottomless pit" in February but after being villanised in Athens
has since refrained from using the term.
Greece was forced to call a repeat election for June 17
after a May 6 vote left parliament divided between parties that
support and oppose austerity conditions attached to a
130-billion-euro ($163 billion) bailout package agreed with the
European Union and International Monetary Fund in March.
Anti-bailout parties are expected to repeat their strong
performance, opinion polls show, increasing the risk Greece will
renege on its austerity pledges, default on its debt and
possibly leave the single currency.
Merkel and European Union leaders said at a summit this week
they want to keep Greece in the euro zone. But sources told
Reuters the Eurogroup Working Group - experts who work for the
bloc's finance ministers - had told member states to begin
making contingency plans for a Greece exit.
Juergen Fitschen, the designated co-chief executive of
Germany's largest commercial bank, Deutsche Bank, was
quoted in online editions of German newspapers on Friday calling
Greece a "failed state".
"Greece is the only country that we can in my view call a
failed state," he said. "It's a corrupt state, its political
leadership is corrupt."
Friedrich, a leader in the arch-conservative Christian
Social Union (CSU) that is the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's
Christian Democrats (CDU), said Greece made a mistake assuming
joining the euro would give the country prosperity.
"(They) evidently believed wealth would be automatic if they
got their hands on the euro," Friedrich said.
He added "a country needs a currency that matches its
Public opinion in Germany is turning against Greece staying
in the euro zone. A Politbarometer poll by ZDF TV published on
Friday showed only 31 percent want Greece to stay with 60
percent opposed. In a similar ZDF poll in November, 41 percent
wanted Greece to stay and 49 percent wanted to see it leave.
Germany's Nobel literature laureate Guenter Grass attacked
Europe for its treatment of Greece in a poem published on
Saturday in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper called "Europe's
Greece was being disparaged as a country "below junk value",
he wrote, and added it was "close to chaos because you're not
fit for the markets".
He said Greece was being "abandoned as a naked debtor in the
dock, a country suffers ... and is condemned to poverty."
$1 = 0.7992 euros)
(Reporting By Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Sophie Hares)