Germany downplays impact of Greek euro exit

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(AP) BERLIN - Germany's finance minister suggested in comments published Friday that the eurozone could deal with an abrupt exit by Greece, even though he says he doesn't want that to happen.

Wolfgang Schaeuble was quoted by the Rheinische Post newspaper saying Greece has to fulfill its financial obligations in order to stay in the 17-nation eurozone, but that Athens could not be forced.

"We have learned a lot in the last two years and built in protective mechanisms," he said. "The risk of effects on other countries in the eurozone have been reduced and the eurozone as a whole has become more resistant."

Greece is currently trying to form a new government and risks losing its rescue loan lifeline if it does not pass further austerity measures and reforms.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Germany would not comment on details of Greece's attempts to form a government and "will not exert any influence" on that process.

However, he underlined Berlin's insistence that Athens stick to the existing course.

"It has been the German government's policy from the beginning to stabilize Greece as a member of the eurozone, and nothing about this aim has changed from our point of view," Seibert told reporters.

"The road toward that is clear to all participants - this road is marked by two Greek (rescue) programs, by solidarity expressed in billions and by very difficult efforts on the part of the Greeks," he said. "The German government does not see another road that could lead to the same destination of Greece's stabilization in the euro."