NEWS

Merkel against pre-poll negotiations; Obama says crisis should not be ‘major shock’

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World leaders continued to hold a hard line on Greece Tuesday as deadlines for the country’s bailout expiry and a scheduled debt repayment to the International Monetary Fund loomed large.

Even as talks were under way on a new Greek request to the Eurogroup, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Germany would not negotiate on a new agreement before a Greek referendum, which is planned for Sunday.

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama said the Greek crisis should not be a “major shock” to the US economy though its repercussions could have “a dampening effect on the entire world economy.”

Merkel said no new negotiations could take place until after the plebiscite, irrespective of what new proposals may entail. “Before a referendum, as planned, is carried out, we won’t negotiate on anything new at all,” she said. Earlier, she told MPs that it would only be possible to consider earlier negotiations with Greece if Athens called off the referendum. She added that Athens had been warned for weeks that the time for a bailout extension was running out.

The geopolitical impact of the Greek crisis is also a concern. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Tuesday that Greece should not make cuts in its defense spending and has played an important role in southern Europe as a NATO member. Asked whether Greece would remain a member of NATO if it left the eurozone, Stoltenberg was quoted by German broadcaster ZDF as noting simply that, “the Greek government has always stressed it wants to remain a reliable member of NATO.”