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EU Finance Officials Urge Greece To Stay In Eurozone

Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker

Luxembourg's Jean-Claude Juncker

Top finance officials from the European Union have urged Greece to maintain its course of austerity reforms aimed at bringing the country out of economic crisis.

The chairman of the Eurogroup panel of finance ministers, Luxembourg Prime Minister and Finance Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, said he was "strongly against" Greece leaving the eurozone.

Speaking after a five-hour meeting of the Eurogroup, Juncker said: "Our unshakeable desire is to maintain Greece within the euro area. We will do everything possible to that effect."

But Juncker said Greece needed a "fully functioning government."

In Athens, efforts at forming a government failed on May 14 with leaders promising to continue negotiations on May 15.

Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos said he was not optimistic a coalition government could be formed.

If coalition talks fail, Greece will face fresh elections amid increasing speculation the country may have to leave the eurozone.

Germany Helps Eurozone Avoid Recession

In other news, Eurostat, the European Union statistics office, says the eurozone logged zero growth in the first three months of the year, narrowly avoiding recession.

Analysts had predicted a 0.2 percent decline in economic output across the 17-nation currency area from January to March, following an 0.3 percent contraction in the last quarter of 2011.

However, results released on May 15 showed Germany, Europe's biggest economy, recording 0.5 percent growth behind a strong export performance in the first quarter, helping keep the eurozone out of recession.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and dpa