Merkel says Germany won't negotiate new deal with Greece before referendum

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday that Germany would not negotiate on a new bailout agreement before Greece's referendum which is planned for Sunday.

She said that this applied regardless of whether new offers were made on Tuesday, suggesting it was now too late to vet them. Merkel placed the blame on the Greek government for allowing its bailout program to expire tonight.

"Before a referendum, as planned, is carried out, we won't negotiate on anything new at all," Merkel said.

The Greek government sent a letter to the chairman of the Eurogroup of euro zone finance ministers on Tuesday seeking a last-minute extension of its bailout and a two-year funding and debt restructuring program.

The German finance ministry sent the new Greek paper to financial experts in the Bundestag lower house of parliament on Tuesday evening.

Merkel told a meeting of conservative lawmakers earlier in the day that it would only be possible to consider earlier negotiations with Greece if Athens called off the referendum but she added this was not to be expected, participants said.

Merkel said the Greek government had been warned for weeks that the time for a bailout extension was running out and that Germany's Bundestag would have to approve such a step, which was now no longer possible.

In the German ruling coalition of conservatives and Social Democrats (SPD), the new proposals from Athens are therefore seen as tricks by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to show that he had wanted to prevent the second aid package from expiring, three sources said.

Merkel stressed in the conservative lawmakers' meeting that if necessary, a clash with Athens should be accepted to defend the principles of the currency union, namely that countries only get help in return for doing something themselves.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Noah Barkin/Ruth Pitchford)