Greek PM Tsipras Says Europe Union Is Desired

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras delivers a speech at Athens University entitled 'The Greek Revolution as European Fact' o
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras delivers a speech at Athens University entitled 'The Greek Revolution as European Fact' on the occasion of Greece's Independence Day on March 25, 2015. Greece's new radical government celebrated Independence Day with a crowd-friendly military parade and folk music, a move that has met with some criticism at home. AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKI (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)

(Adds progress of talks in paragraph 8)

By Costas Pitas

ATHENS, March 28 (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Saturday that he sought no rift with Europe after his cash-strapped country submitted a list of reforms to its lenders in a bid to secure much-needed funds.

Tsipras's leftist government agreed an extension to its 240-million euro bailout funding in February, albeit with aid frozen, and now must agree on a set of reforms which it sent to its EU-IMF creditors on Friday in order to stave off bankruptcy.

The austerity-weary nation will run out of money by April 20, a source familiar with the matter said on Tuesday, if it does not unlock much-needed funding.

"The liquidity problem is naturally hampering the situation but I believe that will be tackled immediately once we reach an agreement over reforms," Tsipras said in an interview with Sunday's Real News newspaper.

After answering a question regarding government attempts to deal with corruption, Tsipras was asked whether he wanted a rift or a solution with Greece's European partners.

"My view has always been the same: a break from corruption, a solution with Europe," he replied.

Earlier Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis, one of Tsipras's most left-wing ministers, hit out at a "Germanised European Union ... for tightening week-by-week the noose around the Greek economy."

Athens says its reforms will boost state revenues by 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion) in 2015, partly by tackling tax evasion, but that it will oppose any new "recessionary measures" such as further wage or pension cuts.

Discussions with EU and IMF lenders, known as the Brussels Group, will continue throughout the weekend with "much work to be done," sources told the semi-official Athens News Agency.

As talks unfold, Finance Minister Varoufakis told Vima newspaper on Sunday that the reforms would not include a rise in VAT, which had been a concern on Greece's islands where rates are lower, but changes to tax collection would be made.

Varoufakis was the center of speculation on Friday following a report in the German newspaper Bild that a Greek government source had said it was only a matter of time before he resigned. But Tsipras said Varoufakis was "one of the key members of the government."


As Greece races to agree to raise funds, Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis told China's official Xinhua news agency that Athens will sell its majority stake in the port of Piraeus within weeks, a flip-flop from its previous position.

Speaking during a visit by Greek officials to China, Dragasakis hinted that Chinese firm Cosco Group - short-listed in a process launched by the previous center-right government - was a front runner for the state's 67 percent stake.

And as Greece seeks to fill its state coffers, the Russian ambassador to Athens told Kathimerini newspaper that Moscow would examine any loan request from Greece, were it to be made.

Tsipras is due to visit Moscow on April 8 for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin but the Greek government has stressed it is not seeking funding from the Kremlin.

On Saturday, Greece's energy ministry said Lafazanis will meet Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak and Gazprom Chief Executive Alexei Miller on Monday in the capital, a week before Tsipras is due to arrive.

The previous center-right government had planned to accelerate the sale of a 65 percent stake in gas utility DEPA, after an initial attempt to sell to Gazprom in 2013 failed. Within days of Syriza taking power in January, Lafazanis said he would scrap the sale.

DEPA has previously negotiated with Gazprom in a bid to get cheaper gas supplies and was one of the first European companies to obtain a rebate in 2011.

The two countries, which are both Orthodox Christian, have traditionally had good relations and Athens has never strongly supported sanctions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine. (1 US dollar = 0.9185 euro) (Additional reporting by Engen Tham in Shanghai and Michael Nienaber and Gernot Heller in Berlin; Editing by David Evans, Stephen Powell, Greg Mahlich)