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By Thomas Escritt
AMSTERDAM, July 14 (Reuters) - The head of the Eurogroup of finance ministers said Greece had tested the limits of Europe’s patience and understanding and said he had been angry with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras over his “beautiful” but false promises to the Greek people.
After a tempestuous weekend of negotiations in Brussels Tsipras agreed to enact tough reforms in return for urgently needed loans to keep the almost bankrupt Greek economy afloat.
It marked a dramatic U-turn for Tsipras just one week after he persuaded Greek voters to reject a similar package of austerity measures in a referendum he had hoped would strengthen his hand in negotiations with the other 18 euro zone states.
In an interview with Dutch television’s Nieuwsuur, extracts of which were released ahead of broadcast, Eurogroup chair Jeroen Dijsselbloem said Tsipras’s tactics had made it harder to secure financial support for Athens.
“You have to realise that if we’d held referendums in the other 18 countries on whether we should give more money to Greece, the result would have been much more striking and more negative than the 60 percent who voted (against austerity) in Greece,” said Dijsselbloem, who is also Dutch finance minister.
He said Tsipras’s decision to call a referendum had led to “enormous disbelief and disappointment” in the euro zone.
“I was angry because of the beautiful promises made to the Greek population that weren’t true. You can’t promise things that you can’t bring about,” Dijsselbloem was quoted as saying on the television website.
He said Greece’s economy would be stronger after it has implemented the tough measures required as a condition for the bailout.
“It’s a difficult deal for the Greek government... I have no sympathy for the Greek government, but I do sympathise with the Greek population,” he added.
On Tuesday evening Tsipras, who must start to implement the measures this week, said the agreement reached in Brussels, though harsh, had saved Greece from exiting the euro and suffering an economic meltdown. (Reporting by Thomas Escritt; editing by Gareth Jones)