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Greece must be treated with 'dignity' in debt row: Hollande

French President François Hollande attends a EU summit at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, on 15 December, 2016.
French President François Hollande attends a EU summit at the European Council headquarters in Brussels, on 15 December, 2016. Reuters/Yves Herman

Greece must be treated with "dignity" in the row over the eurozone's suspension of debt relief, French President François Hollande warned on 15 December.

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"I want Greece to be treated with dignity and to stay in the eurozone," Hollande said as he arrived at an European Union summit in Brussels.

France opposes the decision by the eurozone to suspend debt relief for Greece. This was decided after Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras hiked spending for pensioners, Finance Minister Michel Sapin said earlier on 15 December.

Sapin suggested the decision had not been taken unanimously by the 19-member eurozone, with Germany known to have pushed for cutting off further aid to Athens.

He also backed Tsipras, saying that "no government has kept its promises as much" as his.

France has traditionally taken a far softer line on Greece than Germany during the years of negotiations over Athens' crippling debt and need for bailout funds.

Sapin insisted that "the debt relief measures will be put in place" despite the decision announced by Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the head of the eurozone finance ministers group.

Greek PM Tsipras plans to implement a one-off payout to 1.6 million low-income pensioners, along with a sales tax break for islands sheltering thousands of migrants.

The Greek parliament is set to vote on the payments on Thursday evening which would affect retirees who have a pension of less than 850 euros a month, at a total cost of 617 million euros.

The payments could violate the terms of Greece's third bailout, agreed in July 2015 after six months of bitter talks that nearly saw Athens crash out of the eurozone.

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