Eurozone ministers handed Greece an ultimatum Monday to request an extension to its hated debt bailout programme, deepening a bitter stand-off that risks seeing Athens tumble out of the eurozone.
Eurogroup head Jeroen Dijsselbloem said Greece had the rest of the week to request an extension to the programme, which expires at the end of the month.
"Given the timelines we have... we can use this week but that is about it," said Dijsselbloem, who is also Dutch finance minister, after crunch talks between Greece and its 18 eurozone partners collapsed when Athens rejected demands that it continue its austerity-heavy bailout.
The hard-left government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is trying to win a radical overhaul to the terms of its 240-billion-euro ($270-billion) bailout which it says has damaged the Greek economy after years of imposed austerity.
But Greece's EU partners demand that before they agree to ease up on the austerity conditions, Athens must accept that it has to extend the current programme and its harsh terms by at least a few months.
"There has to be a commitment from the Greek government that they accept the main features of the programme," Dijsselbloem said.
"The best way forward is to get a request from the Greeks for changes within the programme, that is our preferred option," he added.
A Greek government source rejected the demand as "absurd" and "unacceptable."
Dijsselbloem said he could see little real difference between the Greek government's call for a bridging arrangement and the finance ministers' view that the current programme should be extended.
He said that if Athens were to submit a request for an extension, eurozone finance ministers could meet again Friday to discuss ways to ease some of its terms.