French president says just 'a few hours left' for Greek deal

François Hollande made a last-minute appeal to the Greek government to return to the discussions and negotiate an agreement.

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French President François Hollande made a last-ditch appeal on Monday to Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras to return to the negotiating table with creditors, saying only a few hours remained for a deal, reports The Economic Times.

Athens shocked creditors by announcing on Saturday a July 5 referendum on the latest cash-for-reform proposal. It now has less than 48 hours to pay back 1.6 billion euros of IMF loans.

Ministers from Hollande's Socialist government were early backers of Tsipras' leftist administration after it won January elections. Paris has long sought a compromise but Hollande's comments made clear the ball was now in Athens' court.

"There are a few hours before the negotiation is closed for good, notably for the extension of the Greek aid programme," he said after a hastily-arranged cabinet meeting on Greece.

"If the Greeks, if their government, so decide it, I would be favourable to talks resuming," a sombre-looking Hollande said on the steps of the presidential Elysée palace.

Hollande, like his finance minister Michel Sapin earlier in the morning, said France remained ready to help but that it was now up to the Greeks to decide if they wanted to stay in the euro or not.

Tsipras' government saw its early hopes of building an anti-austerity alliance with France dashed when Paris insisted shortly after it came to power that France and Germany would act jointly over Greece's debt crisis.