We smashed all the printing presses, so we can't print drachmas: Greece's finance minister

Drachma bills, Greece's former currency, next to euro bills and coins.
Drachma bills, Greece's former currency, next to euro bills and coins. PHOTO: AFP

ATHENS (AFP) - With speculation swirling that Greece might be forced out of the euro and have to print its own money after a weekend referendum, its finance minister on Thursday said the country no longer had the presses to make drachmas.

"We don't have the capacity," Mr Yanis Varoufakis told Australian public radio network ABC.

In 2000, the year before Greece joined the euro zone, "one of the things we had to do was get rid of all our printing presses" as part of the bloc's assertion that "this monetary union is irreversible", he said.

"We smashed the printing presses - we have no printing presses," Mr Varoufakis said.

Greece's government last week called the rush referendum for this coming Sunday.

It says the consultation is narrowly about whether the country should accept harsh austerity measures in return for a bailout from international creditors that expired on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Mr Varoufakis are calling for a 'No' vote.

But leading euro zone nations Germany, France and Italy say the plebiscite is really about whether Greek citizens want to keep the euro or not.