HELSINKI (Reuters) - A deal on extending Greece's bailout deal must be found by the end of February or the European Central Bank will not be able to continue lending to its banks, ECB council member Erkki Liikanen said on Saturday.
Europe's bailout program for Greece, part of a 240-billion-euro ($270 billion) rescue package along with the International Monetary Fund, expires on Feb. 28 and a failure to renew it could leave Athens unable to meet its financing needs and cut its banks off from ECB liquidity support.
Greece's new leftist government, which aims to ease the strict terms of the bailout that have imposed harsh austerity, opened talks with European partners on Friday by flatly refusing to extend the current program or to cooperate with the international inspectors overseeing it.
"We (ECB) have our own legislation and we will act according to that... Now, Greece's program extension will expire in the end of February so some kind of solution must be found, otherwise we can't continue lending," Liikanen, also the governor of Finland's central bank, told public broadcaster YLE.
"I don't believe that one can hide from the realities in the economy," he said in an interview.
Asked about the possibility of a Greek debt haircut, Liikanen said: "A significant debt restructuring has been carried out with private investors. The ECB cannot fund a state directly, which is what it would mean in this case."
Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Mark Heinrich