European skepticism over Greece growing

European skepticism over Greece?s ability to weather a debt crisis that is threatening the eurozone appeared to peak on Wednesday as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde and others gave downbeat assessments of the country?s prospects.

In an interview with six European newspapers, Merkel expressed doubts about the outlook for Greece, which she called ?a special case.? ?Despite all the efforts that have been made, neither the Greeks themselves nor the international community have yet managed to stabilize the situation,? she said.

Lagarde, in comments to French radio station Europe 1, said the EU must build a fire wall to contain Greece?s crisis. ?In case of contagion, one needs to be able to stop it. Greece, for example is in an extremely difficult situation, let?s be realistic,? she said.

In Brussels, European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn and EC President Jose Manuel Barroso joined the chorus, insisting that more rescue funding would not be released unless the leader of the two main parties in Greece?s coalition — socialist PASOK and conservative New Democracy — clearly commit to reforms.

Prime Minister Lucas Papademos is expected to seek such guarantees from party leaders ahead of Monday?s EU summit.

The leader of ND, Antonis Samaras, was on Wednesday in Moscow where he met with senior Kremlin officials who reportedly expressed discontent over a ?deterioration? in bilateral ties.

The failure of Greece to move ahead with the Burgas-Alexandroupoli oil pipeline was one objection raised by officials, who, however, conveyed the interest of Russian firms to invest in Greece.

Samaras, whose party is leading in the polls, is to meet Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on Thursday.

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