Greek poll-front runner backs staying in euro

Greek poll front-runner Alexis Tsipras, buoyed by a groundswell of opposition to EU-IMF imposed austerity measures, says forcing his country out of the eurozone would sink the region as a whole.

The problems in Greece were those of Europe, Tsipras told Saturday's edition of the International Herald Tribune, and forcing his country out of the eurozone could easily bring down other countries, notably Spain and Italy which have come under increasing pressure as the crisis has spread.

"Our goal isn't to blackmail or terrorise, our goal is to shake (leaders up)," Tsipras told the newspaper.

"We want to convince them ... they need to change the policies in Greece and change the policies in Europe, otherwise Europe will be at very large risk."

With all eyes on June 17 elections, the second in just six weeks, Tsipras' radical left Syriza party is tipped to do better than its second place finish in May 6 polls which turned on implementation of a massive EU-IMF bailout.

Voters roundly rejected the austerity measures in the accord which was supported by the traditional mainstays of Greek politics -- the conservative New Democracy and Socialist Pasok parties -- but no government could be formed.

The June 17 polls are fast becoming seen as a referendum on Greek acceptance of the deal and continued place in the eurozone, and Tsipras told the IHT that Brussels needed to be careful.

After recent polls put Syriza in the lead, a survey Friday showed the race narrowing, giving New Democracy 23.1 percent of the vote, up from the 18.85 percent it won on May 6, with Syriza on 21 percent, up from 16.8 percent.

EU leaders, especially German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have insisted that Greece must stick to the terms of the bailout deal or risk losing access to aid funding -- effectively forcing it out of the eurozone.

But in recent months, calls for the focus to be rebalanced away from austerity to growth have increased, with new French President Francois Hollande winning office earlier this month on a pledge for change.

The debate is top of the agenda Saturday at a G8 meeting hosted by US President Barack Obama, who said Friday that he supported Greece staying in the eurozone, a region of "extraordinary importance" not only for Europe but also the wider global economy.

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