Greek government backs finance minister Varoufakis – live updates

All the latest economic and financial news, including developments around Greece’s increasingly fraught bailout talks

#Greece | Varoufakis confidant Nikos Theocarakis replaced in Brussels Group with Nikos Houliarakis. A sign of Varoufakis retreat.

Reports are coming in that Greece’s negotiating team is being shaken up:

New political negotiation group for #Greece under the supervision of the greek finmin @yanisvaroufakis

Greek gov't says FinMin Varoufakis to form "political negotiation team" that will be led by Alt Foreign Minister Euclid Tsakalotos #Greece

Despite govt officials backing @yanisvaroufakis, others are being introduced/upgraded in talks process #Greece

#Greek govt officials spreading the message that @yanisvaroufakis has the full backing of govt

<football manager analogy here>

Over in Athens calls are growing for the Greek finance minister’s head, after he came away from last Friday’s eurogroup with criticism ringing in his ears, and no signs of progress with creditors.

“He has to resign today to make things easier for Mr Tsipras and to liberate him so that it doesn’t seem that he is being sacked on the orders of people abroad.”

“I am not at all sure that Mr Varoufakis has not adopted the logic of the drachma....Mr Varoufakis is an impediment for Greece.”

“Mr Varoufakis will be alright, he will be able to go on and lecture in universities but does he think of ordinary Greeks who do not have such possibilities?”.

Breaking away from Greece for a moment; Japan has just been hit with a credit rating downgrade.

Fitch cut Japan’s rating by one notch, from A+ to A; the sixth-highest credit rating available. It blamed the cut on Tokyo’s failure to agree “sufficient structural fiscal measures” in its most recent budget, to make up for delaying a sales tax rise.

Japan’s main sovereign credit and rating weakness is the high and rising level of government debt. Fitch projects the gross general government (GG) debt to GDP ratio to rise to 244% of GDP by end-2015, by far the highest ratio of any rated sovereign.

Jeroen Dijsselbloem has also confirmed that he spoke with Greek PM Tsipras after Friday’s Eurogroup dramas in Riga.

Asked by De Volkskrant whether Yanis Varoufakis was the right man to handle the negotiations, Dijsselbloem replied that the issues go beyond Varoufakis’s remit:

Yes, it is about the budget and the financial sector but also on privatization, labor market and pensions. So much more than the portfolio of the Minister of Finance.....

In @marcpeeperkorn intvw, @J_Dijsselbloem confirms he called @atsipras after Friday's #eurogroup bust-up in #Riga:

Is Yanis Varougakis being painted as the fall guy by eurozone members who have lost patience with Greece?

Alastair Winter, chief economist at investment bank Daniel Stewart’s, suspects so. He writes:

It appears that Mr Varoufakis, a renowned exponent of game theory, may have mistaken the game that the Northerners are playing. Encouraged by Messrs Juncker, Draghi, Moscovici and Ms Lagarde, he is playing the game to avoid Grexit. In his post-meeting interviews he said “Any mention of a plan B is profoundly anti-European, My immediate response was to say there is no such plan B, there cannot be such a plan B.”

However, the Northerners’ game seems more like avoiding getting the blame for Grexit even if they cannot yet agree a Plan B (because of opposition from those encouraging Mr Varoufakis). The Greeks are still holding out for the last €7.2bn tranche from the second bail-out, no more supervision by the lenders and release from most if not all current budgetary and structural reform targets. Once that is out the way, they then will want to talk about a third bail-out.

Wonder if circumventing Varoufakis just another instalment in Northerners trying to escape blame for Grexit while Greece trying to avoid it?

Good news for readers whose grasp of Greek is as poor as mine; Enikos will translating Alexis Tsipras’s interview tonight into English (from 9.30pm UK time, I think)

@graemewearden Simultaneous translation into English for Alexis #Tsipras first live interview -

Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem has told Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant that Greece will not require a “great” new bailout when its existing programme expires.

I’m not going to speculate on the extent, but the amounts are of an entirely different order than the current help.

Dijsselbloem statement is interesting. No 3rd major program for #Greece could mean two things: i) Greece gets dumped ii) debt rescheduling

I forgot to mention this earlier, but Alexis Tsipras is giving a live TV interview late tonight, to discuss the debt crisis.

Mr. Tsipras will answer questions from leading journalist Nikos Chatzinikolaou and an invited audience on all the critical issues facing Greece and the negotiations with its lenders.

Greek bonds are weakening this morning, pushing up yields further into the danger zone.

The yields on Greece’s two-year bond has jumped to 26.8%, up from 26% on Friday night, showing a higher risk of default.

Peripheral spreads widen as markets prepare for Greek endgame. #Grexit

Yanis Varoufakis is making headlines today, but not in the way he’d like:

Everything going well then

Greek worries are pushing Europe’s stock markets down in early trading, with France’s CAC index losing 1%:

Proposals from Greece do not include important issues such as pension cuts and labour market reforms and are not something the creditors will be able to stomach.”

Lots of chatter about Greece this morning:

#EU hopes to sideline #Greece finance minister and deal directly with PM. Little progress made on bailout, some big repayments due in weeks

Greece to find ways to assemble enough cash to pay pensioners and employees, after euro ministers say no more aid until bailout terms met

#Greece | Brussels Group to hold conference call later today in a revived effort to bridge gap in Greek bailout talks.

A German government spokesman has confirmed reports that chancellor Merkel spoke with the Greek prime minister by phone yesterday.

“expressed their common will for a steady communication throughout the course of negotiations in order to have a mutually beneficial solution soon”

The Financial Times is also reporting that Yanis Varoufakis is being sidelined, after last Friday’s “highly critical” eurogroup meeting:

Greece’s dire financial position is forcing eurozone authorities to look beyond Mr Varoufakis to Alexis Tsipras, prime minister, much like in February when Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who chairs the eurogroup, brokered an extension of the current bailout programme.

According to two eurozone officials, Mr Dijsselbloem phoned Mr Tsipras from Riga in an effort to mend fences after Friday’s feisty eurogroup meeting, where Mr Varoufakis was rounded on by his eurozone colleagues.

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of events around the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.

It looks like another week dominated by Greece’s debt crisis.

“He is completely isolated,” a senior euro zone official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

“He didn’t even come to the dinner to represent his country,” the official said of the event where ministers, serenaded by a Latvian choir, ate salmon and sea bass.

FDR, 1936: "They are unanimous in their hate for me; and I welcome their hatred." A quotation close to my heart (& reality) these days

Related: Greek finance minister hints at strained EU relations: 'I welcome their hatred'

Greece has moved somewhat closer to a technical default after the weekend’s antics, although it seems the majority of Europe’s finance ministers have had about as much as they can take of the Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and will look to deal directly with top dog Alexis Tsipras from here on in.

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County cricket – live!

Expecting a more serene day today after yesterday’s fireworks. There is the prospect of two recent England opening batsmen demonstrating that they should not have been rejected. Sam Robson is at the crease, Nick Compton has his pads on in the pavilion.

Yesterday’s technicolour action has brought a good crowd in. There is sunshine alongside a chill wind and an intriguing day awaits. I was going to meander gently through the prospects but Lewis Gregory has just bowled Robson with his second ball. Enter Compo!

Richard Gibson sets up the day from Headlingley

Top of the morning to you all, on a glorious morning in Leeds. It was a lovely drive in this morning and the addition of four rose-shaped floodlights means I can now see the ground as I drop down into Meanwood on my journey.

Morning all,

Today we have Vic Marks at Somerset v Middlesex, Richard Gibson at Yorkshire v Warwickshire and Ali Martin at Surrey v Essex.

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Dangerous, isolated and primed for war? North Korean clichés debunked

The cartoon caricature of the country glosses over recent developments in society. Yes it’s repressive and idiosyncratic, but not uniquely so argues Hazel Smith

Global media remain fascinated with North Korea’s supposed weirdness.

Yet on the face of it, the North Korean government is neither uniquely authoritarian nor the population uniquely economically badly off. From Laos to Turkmenistan in Asia; Equatorial Guinea to Zimbabwe in Africa; and Syria to Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, political dissent is brutally suppressed and freedom still to be won elsewhere, too.

Related: Do North Koreans know their country is the butt of so many jokes?

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It​'s not uncommon for diplomats from poor and rich countries to exploit postings abroad to enhance income

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Nepal earthquake: stranded Everest climbers rescued – live updates

Aftershocks hinder rescue efforts in the Himalayan nation as death toll passes 3,700 after a devastating 7.8 magnitude quake near Kathmandu

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Thai customs seize 511 pieces of elephant ivory destined for Laos

Three-tonne haul, marked as tea leaves from Kenya, is second massive seizure in less than a week of elephant tusks from Africa bound for Laos

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Liberia: We Support a Holistic Corruption Fight Not Selective

[NEWS] The Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA) Matilda Wokie Parker and her comptroller Christiana Kpabar Paelay were on Wednesday suspended by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. The President also suspended all members of the Board of Directors of NPA, except for statutory members, and the Chairperson who was recently named.

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Desperate Nepalis flee capital as aftershocks spread fear

BHAKTAPUR, Nepal (Reuters) - Thousands of Nepalis began fleeing the capital Kathmandu on Monday, terror-stricken by two days of powerful aftershocks and fearing shortages of food and water after an earthquake that killed more than 3,200 people.

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Melbourne woman Renu Fotedar killed in Nepal earthquake

Forty-nine-year-old mother of two, last seen at Everest base camp, is among the thousands killed in the devastating quake

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Bad day in Baltimore: Reporters beaten, detained by police, RT contributor robbed (VIDEO)

Journalists fell victim to the chaos in Baltimore, engulfed in protest after the death in custody of black suspect Freddie Gray. Reporters were beaten up and detained by police, and RT’s Ruptly producer was robbed by a street gang on Sunday.
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LeBron leads Cavaliers’ playoff sweep of Boston

Scores 27 points and grabs 10 rebounds but Cavaliers suffer potential loss of Love with dislocated left shoulder.

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