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Greece a day closer to leaving the euro

Greece edged a day closer to a possible euro exit as top European policy makers insisted the Athens government must request an extension of its bailout programme, something Greek leaders vow they will not do.

Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis (right) is taking an equally firm line, but said yesterday that he believed a solution to the impasse could be found.

"The next step is the responsible step. Europe will continue to deliberate in order to enhance the chances of being able to achieve a very good outcome for the average European," Mr Varoufakis said.

All eyes are now on the European Central Bank, which must decide today whether to extend Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) funds to Greek banks to keep them in cash while the crisis unfolds.

Talks between eurozone finance ministers and Greece broke down on Monday night - the second time in less than a week - raising further concerns about the prospect of a Greek exit from the eurozone.

Discussions allegedly ended after Greek negotiators settled on a draft agreement with the European Commission, only for the text to be replaced with alternative wording when it came to signing the deal.

Senior eurozone figures continued to talk tough, insisting the wise move would be for Athens to ask for the extension ahead of a deadline later this week, before its bailout ends on February 28.

Finance minister Michael Noonan did not speak to reporters in Brussels yesterday, but a spokesman said that his position is close to that of Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the chairman of eurozone finance ministers.