Greeks in fighting mood warn EU of price to pay if bailout fails

Athens (AFP) - "If we carry on like this, Europe is screwed!"

In the streets of Athens, Greeks are clinging to hope of a bailout deal after a dramatic stand-off with Brussels, but warn they would not be the only ones to pay the price of failure.

There's a rush at the newsstand near parliament, where people on their way to work scan the headlines after Monday's EU negotiation flop. The papers declare "anxiety after talks shipwrecked", but "Greece resisting".

"I'm feeling pretty anxious after last night," Dimitris Papageorgiou, 47, told AFP, after Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis refused to sign a deal proffered by Greece's EU creditors, leaving the country teetering on the edge.

"I'm afraid there will be some kind of bank run," he said, though "personally, I've got no money left to take out."

Eurozone ministers handed Greece an ultimatum Monday night, saying it had this week to request an extension to its bailout which expires at the end of the month, or risk crashing out of the eurozone.

But so far Greece has refused to continue with a programme it says has wrung its citizens dry, creating abject poverty and sky-high unemployment, which now stands at over 50 percent among young Greeks.

In Syntagma square, the scene of violent anti-bailout riots in the past, Thomas Argiros was in a fighting mood.

"It's the first time a government is standing with dignity in Europe. We must not always say 'yes', nor follow a programme forced upon us. We must fight, that is what negotiation means," the pensioner said.

Varoufakis insisted he had "no doubt" a deal would be found over the next two days and a MARC poll conducted this weekend and published Tuesday showed 65 percent of electors believe "a solution will be found".

- 'If Brussels doesn't listen...' -

Sociologist Anna Sirivli called on Brussels to wake up to the fact that a Greek eurozone exit could have untold knock-on effects throughout Europe, and boost anti-EU parties such as France's National Front led by Marine Le Pen.

"If Brussels doesn't listen then Le Pen will be the next Merkel," Sirivli said in reference to the German chancellor, who currently holds the European purse-strings.

Retired 65-year-old Dina Cosse agreed: "If it goes on like this, Europe is screwed. It will be the extreme right which takes over everywhere."

Tales of betrayal, backstabbing and bloody-mindedness in Brussels, where Varoufakis said he had been offered a deal he was ready to sign before it was abruptly withdrawn, sparked both fury and resignation back home.

Sofia Toli, who is eight months pregnant and whose family has struggled after her father lost his job, said all they could do was wait and hope for an end to a deep social malaise which she claims has seen "many people commit suicide."

Her 42-year-old partner, Nikos Vasiliou, was furious with Brussels, saying the ultimatum meant Greece should declare the negotiations over, for "with an ultimatum there is no longer any reason to talk."

At the same time in some quarters there was bitterness towards new hard-left government's handling of the crisis.

Those who voted against the ruling Syriza party in January's elections have accused it of dangerous incompetence in overturning a deal which had led to small signs of economic recovery in the debt-laden country.

"This is really bad for Greece. Things were getting better and now we're going to have to suffer along with the idiots who voted for this government," said Yiannis, a jewellery shop owner who didn't want to give his surname.

"The only good thing that could come out of this is if the government falls and we get rid of Syriza," he said.

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