Greek finance minister says eyeing new debt deal by 'end May'

French Finance Minister Michel Sapin (right) and Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis arrive at a joint news conference after a meeting at the Bercy Finance Ministry in Paris on Sunday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
French Finance Minister Michel Sapin (right) and Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis arrive at a joint news conference after a meeting at the Bercy Finance Ministry in Paris on Sunday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS (AFP) - Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis on Sunday said he wanted to reach a new agreement with international creditors on his country's debt burden "by the end of May".

Between now and then, Greece was "not going to ask for any more loans", he told reporters in Paris, the minister's first stop on a European charm offensive to build support for a renegotiation of his nation's 240-billion-euro (S$$367 billion) bailout by the European Union and the IMF.

Europe, and Berlin in particular, are closely watching the first moves by Greece's new far-left government after the anti-austerity Syriza party swept to victory late last month promising that it would seek to write down half of Greece's debt.

Germany, which has shouldered the bulk of Greece's loans, has already refused to consider any debt relief.

Varoufakis, who is holding talks with European counterparts this week to set out his country's position on the repayment of its debts, said he wanted to travel "soon" to Berlin and Frankfurt - home to the headquarters of the European Central Bank.

"I'm really eager to go to Berlin... Madrid, Frankfurt," Varoufakis told reporters after meeting with French Finance Minister Michel Sapin.

"It is essential that we meet," Varoufakis said, referring to German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.

The German finance ministry said it had not yet received an "official request" for such a visit, according to a spokesman in Berlin.

Ahead of Sunday's meeting in Paris, Sapin said the EU should be open to reworking Greece's bailout programme, while emphasising that it must still pay up eventually.

"We can discuss, we can postpone, we can alleviate - but we will not cancel" Greek debt, Sapin told France's Canal+ television.