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France proposes talks on Greece's future

Emmanuel Macron says whatever the result, political discussions must start tomorrow.

A boy holds his mothers vote as she exits a polling booth during the Greek referendum in Thessaloniki on 5 July, 2015. Greek voters headed to the polls today to vote in a historic, tightly fought referendum on whether to accept worsening austerity in exchange for more bailout funds, in a gamble that could see it crash out of the euro. Picture: AFP.

ATHENS - As millions of Greeks vote in a referendum that could save their country from financial collapse, France's Economy Minister says European leaders need to start talks on the future of the country as soon as tomorrow.

Millions of people are still lined up outside polling stations to cast their ballots in the vote that will likely determine whether Greece stays or leaves the Eurozone.

Emmanuel Macron says whatever the result, political discussions must start tomorrow to create a framework for the cash-strapped nation.

Greece's Prime Minster, Alexis Tsipras, has made it clear he favours a "NO" vote to reforms proposed by the country's creditors.

Tsipras has said while his government will accept any outcome, they cannot serve Greeks with the draft austerity measures.

Tsipras has described the turnout of voters in Athens as a triumph for democracy. The state will decide whether or not it will leave the Eurozone or accept an economic bailout.

At least 11 million people are expected to cast their vote throughout the day.

The outcome will influence the way Greece will be negotiating its own survival with its partners and creditors.

The outcome could see Greece exit from the Eurozone after it defaulted on its debts last week.

He is urging a resounding 'No', saying it would give him a strengthened mandate to return to negotiations and demand a better deal, including a writedown on Greece's massive debt.

His European partners, however, say rejection would set Greece on a path out of the euro, with potentially far-reaching consequences for the global economy and Europe's grand project of an unbreakable union.

I VOTED 'YES', SO SHOULD YOU

"I voted 'No' to the 'Yes' that our European partners insist I choose," said Eleni Deligainni, 43, in Athens. "I have been jobless for nearly four years and was telling myself to be patient ... but we've had enough deprivation and unemployment."

Angry and exhausted after five years of pension cuts, falling living standards and rising taxes, Greeks now face closed banks, rationed ATM withdrawals and the prospect of the country literally running out of cash.

Tsipras, a 40-year-old former student activist, has framed the referendum as a matter of national dignity and the future course of Europe.

"As of tomorrow we will have opened a new road for all the peoples of Europe," he said after voting in Athens, "a road that leads back to the founding values of democracy and solidarity in Europe."

Despite the current financial crisis Tsipras has rallied the public to vote against the terms of a bailout package and says he is confident that people will vote no.

The Greeks have been called to decide whether a bailout programme based on even more painful austerity should be accepted at all costs or whether Greece should have the right to have a say at the kind of reform it needs in order to attain growth within the Eurozone.

The future of the Eurozone and Greece is in the balance and the referendum has been staged in a climate of capital controls, closed banks and the threat of an Armageddon with the much-feared exit.

The vote is too close to call, although according to certain unofficial polls, the Nos are marginally ahead of the YESs.

Casting his vote, Tsipras urged the voters to say NO to a future of no dignity and what he calls the humiliating terrorism of European austerity hardliners.

Polls close at 6pm South African time and the first official projection of the result is expected at 8pm.

Additional information by Reuters

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