ATHENS/BRUSSELS (REUTERS) - Greece delayed a key debt payment to the International Monetary Fund due on Friday as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, facing fury among his leftist supporters, demanded changes to tough terms from international creditors for aid to stave off default.
The IMF said Athens planned to bundle four payments due in June into a single 1.6 billion euro lump sum which is now due on June 30.
It was the first time in five years of crisis that Greece has postponed a repayment on its 240 billion euro bailouts from euro zone governments and the IMF, even though Mr Tsipras said earlier this week that Athens had the money and would make the payment.
The delay came as German Chancellor Angela Merkel said talks on a cash-for-reforms deal were still far from reaching an agreement.
In a sign of accelerating efforts to bridge the remaining differences, Tsipras, Merkel and French President Francois Hollande spoke late on Thursday evening via conference call, according to a Greek government official.
Mr Tsipras told the two leaders that the lenders' proposal could not be a basis for a deal because it was not taking into account the progress made in talks in Brussels over the past months, the official said adding that there was optimism that a deal could be reached soon.
Mr Tsipras, elected in January on a promise to end austerity, returned from late night talks with EU officials in Brussels to face an outcry over conditions that would breach the "red lines" his Syriza party has declared.
He told ministers the government could not accept "extreme proposals" and said the creditors should understand that the Greek people had suffered enough and they "have to stop playing games at its expense," a Greek official said. "They have not made any step back, regardless of the convergence reached during these four months on reforms that the Greek side included in its proposals but the lenders draft proposal did not," the official said on condition of anonymity.
Mr Tsipras is due to brief parliament on the negotiations from 1500 GMT (11.00 pm Singapore time) on Friday.
Earlier the novice prime minister left the talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the chairman of euro zone finance ministers, Jeroen Dijsselbloem saying a deal with lenders was "within sight" and that Athens would make a 300 million euro payment to the IMF on Friday. His tone appeared to harden after he ran into a backlash in Athens.