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Greek politicians gather at president's house

Government and opposition party leaders are meeting at Prokopis Pavlopoulos’ residence.

FILE: 'No' supporters hold a banner in front of the parliament late in Athens on 5 July 2015. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the country's president have spoken with French President Francois Hollande over the phone during a break in talks between political leaders in Athens.

Government and opposition party leaders are meeting at the mansion of president Prokopis Pavlopoulos, a day after Greeks voted overwhelmingly to reject the terms of an international aid deal to stave off financial collapse.

DEFIANCE

While jubilant Greeks celebrated their national gesture of defiance late into the night, there was gloom in Brussels.

European Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis told a news conference there was no easy way out of the crisis and the referendum result had widened the gap between Greece and other eurozone countries.

Greek political leaders met at the president's residence at 10am (0700 GMT) as a strengthened Tsipras sought to build a national consensus behind his negotiating position.

Tsipras has spoken by telephone to Hollande, who is trying to broker an agreement ahead of an emergency eurozone summit on Tuesday. Hollande was due to meet later on Monday with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel to seek a joint response from the two biggest eurozone economies.

While France and Italy have emphasised the importance of more talks, German public opinion is running out of patience. Merkel's vice-chancellor, Social Democrat Sigmar Gabriel, said on Sunday that Tsipras had torn down the last bridges of compromise with the euro zone.

A German Finance Ministry spokesperson pushed aside Greek demands for a big debt write-down, as the International Monetary Fund said last week may be necessary. He said the IMF was promoting its traditional stance but Europe had opted for solutions other than debt cuts to put countries back on track.

With banks shuttered, cash machines running out of banknotes and sympathy for Athens among EU governments close to exhausted, Greece's fate is largely in the hands of Merkel and the European Central Bank (ECB).

The ECB's policymaking governing council was starting a conference call at 1000 GMT to decide how long to go on keeping Greek banks afloat after the overwhelming rejection of bailout terms that the central bank had helped to shape.

Several people familiar with ECB policy said the central bank would reject a Greek government request to raise the cap on emergency liquidity assistance provided by the Greek central bank and leave the limit unchanged, slowly tightening the noose on the banks but giving them a few more days' air.

Greek bankers were expected to meet the central bank later in the day, banking sources said, amid expectations that the government will have to issue a new decree extending the crippling closure of banks beyond Tuesday.

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