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Greece Moves Forward With Referendum On Proposed Bailout


The Greek prime minister said today he is willing to compromise to save his country from financial chaos. He said he'd work with European leaders on a new credit deal, but those leaders say they won't talk about that until Greeks vote in a referendum Sunday. Greece's previous loan deal expired yesterday. The banks are still closed, and the country is very close to broke. Joanna Kakissis has the latest from Athens.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: In a short televised address, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told Greeks that he was still fighting hard for them.


ALEXIS TSIPRAS: (Through interpreter) We have been fighting all these months to protect your pensions and to make sure you have respectable ones. The proposals the lenders tried to blackmail us into signing would have cut your pensions. And that's why we declined, and that's why they're taking revenge on us now.

KAKISSIS: That revenge, he says, is the closing of Greek banks and the limit on cash withdrawals until at least next week. But economist Platon Tinios says the European Central Bank had been using Greek government bonds as collateral to finance the banks. And since the previous bailout expired yesterday, that collateral may now be worthless.

PLATON TINIOS: So that would mean really big problems for the banks. The amount of money that the banks have on which they can lend will almost disappear.

KAKISSIS: The bank closures are affecting Kostas Youderis. The small fabric factory where he works can't pay him until the banks reopen and credit is restored. The prime minister says Greeks should not regard Sunday's vote as a referendum on the euro, but Youderis says that's exactly how he sees it.

KOSTAS YOUDERIS: (Speaking Greek).

KAKISSIS: "If we drop the euro and return to our old drachma," he says, "we will all be crying in our mother's arms. We will go right off a cliff." Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who leads the eurozone finance ministers, hinted that the blame for the crisis lay mostly with the Greek government, and he apologized to Greeks who feel like they're expulsion from the euro is imminent.

JEROEN DIJSSELBLOEM: Finally, I can just say that I'm very sorry about the situation, given the strong determination of the Greek people to be a part of Europe and to remain a part of the eurozone in which we fully support them.

KAKISSIS: Tsipras has asked Greeks to vote no on Sunday's referendum in order to get a better deal from creditors. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.