Greek PM says ECB still 'holding rope around our necks'

Greek left-wing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras in comments published Friday charged that the European Central Bank "is still holding the rope we have around our necks".

Tsipras confirmed in an interview with German news weekly Der Spiegel that he wants to bridge a looming financing gap in coming weeks with short-term treasury bills.

If the ECB, one if its three creditors, doesn't agree, he said, this would bring back the tensions seen in negotiations between Athens and its creditors last month and "then the thriller we saw before February 20 will return".

He said such fundamental decisions "should not be taken by technocrats", according to pre-released excerpts of the Spiegel article.

Greece needs to find around 6.0 billion euros ($6.8 billion) for debt repayments falling due this month.

Tsipras also told Der Spiegel that Greece needed more room to manoeuvre as it tackles its debt problems, saying for now "the ECB is still holding the rope we have around our necks".

Greece's new anti-austerity government last month reluctantly agreed to temporarily extend its EU-IMF bailout, but until Athens wins approval for its plans for a four-year economic recovery blueprint it has no access to funds remaining in its 240-billion euro rescue programme.

Despite Greece's years of fiscal and economic troubles, Tsipras ruled out a Greek exit from the eurozone, an option he said he rejects "because I love Europe".

He said having one member leave the currency union would undo the eurozone like a woollen sweater, saying that "once it starts to unravel there is no stopping it".

Tsipras said his government would present six reform proposals Monday at a Eurogroup meeting in Brussels.

Priority number one would be "responding to the humanitarian crisis," he said.

"We want to create an electronic citizen card with which state services can be claimed" and which the neediest citizens could use to pay for food and electricity.

Other points would be administrative reform, allowing payment of overdue taxes in instalments, and setting up a politically independent tax council and a task force for tax inspections whose staff would be rotated every two months to prevent corruption.

fz/kjm/rl