Creditors' dismay turns to fury as the bankrupt country indulges in diplomatic brinkmanship over its debt.

Like a spoilt child and an angry parent locked in an experiment of tough love, Greece and its creditors are embroiled once more in a tug-of-war whose stakes are the future of the debt-ridden country and maybe the euro itself.

By May 9, Greece's hard-left Government has declared, a deal will emerge to unlock €7.2 billion ($10.22 billion) in fresh credit and keep the economy afloat.

Without it, Greece will default and may even exit the eurozone, triggering the greatest challenge to Europe's single currency in its 13-year history.

But within the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the country's partners, dismay at Greece has turned to fury and a May 9 accord looks remote.


Incensed by what they see as foot-dragging, posturing and even sabotage, Greece's creditors have expended almost every drop of goodwill. The creditors reluctantly agreed to a loan extension in February so the new government could come up with the details of economic reforms they demanded -- overhauling its decrepit tax system, opening its sclerotic labour market and privatising state assets to repay debt.

But little of substance has emerged, fuelling suspicions Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wants to push the five-year-old crisis to the edge or beyond.

Exasperation overflowed last week in the Latvian capital of Riga, where eurozone ministers lashed Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis - a flamboyant Marxist economics professor who combines soundbites to the media with lectures to colleagues on the evils of austerity.

The mood was so toxic that the meeting's chairman, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, phoned Tsipras, urging him to intervene.

Varoufakis tweeted unrepentantly that he felt like Franklin Roosevelt in 1936: "They are unanimous in their hate for me; and I welcome their hatred."

Tsipras shook things up, naming Euclid Tsakalotos, a 55-year-old junior foreign minister and veteran of bailout talks under the previous government, to head the "political negotiation team." But Tsipras stood by his maverick finance minister, who will be in charge of the overall team. By May 12, the country has to repay €760 million to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), its other big creditor.

"Without further loans, Greece won't make it, that's the reality," Dijsselbloem told Dutch news station RTL Nieuws.

"The Greek Government gambled that if it negotiated with us the ECB would open its cashier windows, relax its rules. [But] there will be no easy access to the ECB's windows until there's a solid agreement with the eurogroup," he said. "That's been made clear to them time and time again."


Tsipras is insinuating that if Greece goes under, all of the 19-member eurozone will be threatened - a position that Germany's stern-faced finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, reviles as blackmail.

Fears of a eurozone collapse have receded thanks to a financial safety net woven by the ECB, although the device remains worryingly untested.

More eurozone governments have swung behind Germany's position. The new hardliners include Spain, Portugal and Ireland, which have swallowed the austerity pill and oppose letting Greece off, as this would encourage laggards France and Italy to follow suit.

At home, Tsipras' position has been weakened by a haemorrhage of capital and fears among the electorate of a Third World future. A survey showed seven out of 10 want a deal, and just one in two support Varoufakis. "The public coffers are running dry [and] lenders are turning into zombie banks," the Athens newspaper Ekatherimini warned. "Greek voters are starting to realise that this brief grace period is running out."