Greece Crisis: Sign Of A Deal At Loan Talks

Eurozone finance ministers have drafted an outline agreement that could form the basis for extending Greece's financial rescue package, officials have said.

They stressed no formal agreement had yet been reached at negotiations in Brussels.

"There is an initial agreement on a joint draft text among the institutional partners, which is now being presented to all of the ministers," a Greek government official said.

He was speaking after preparatory talks involving the Greek and German ministers, as well as Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and EU economics affairs commissioner Pierre Moscovici.

He added: "Details may be defined later. But let's see."

A eurozone official said the chair of the meeting, Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, was presenting a two-page draft statement to the 19 finance ministers.

Greece wants an extension on its funding for six months but has rejected strict austerity conditions, which Germany has insisted must remain.

Talks between the finance ministers were held up as officials strove to make progress behind the scenes.

Mr Dijsselbloem said earlier there were difficulties but there was cause for some optimism.

"I do not have to tell you it's quite complicated... There is still reason for some optimism but it is very difficult," he told reporters.

Greek sources said Mr Dijsselbloem, Ms Lagarde and Mr Moscovici were shuttling between Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and his German counterpart Wolfgang Schaeuble in an effort to find common ground.

As he arrived for the talks, Mr Varoufakis said he hoped to see "white smoke" by the end of the day - an apparent reference to the election of a Pope.

It had been suggested there was 80% agreement on the Greek plan - which Germany had previously dismissed as a "Trojan horse, intending to get bridge financing and in substance putting an end to the current programme".

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras told Reuters he was "certain" his government's request would be accepted despite Berlin's objections and called for a "historic political decision" to seal a deal.

His anti-austerity government is seeking a compromise as it runs the risk of running out of cash and defaulting on its debts without agreement by the end of the month.

Such a scenario could force it to leave the single currency.

Greece has ruled out the prospect of another bailout like the existing one, citing its mandate from the Greek people who swept the anti-austerity Syriza party to power last month.

The formal Greek request pledged to honour all the country's debts and not take unilateral action that would undermine agreed fiscal targets.

The government says the conditions attached to its €240bn (£178bn) bailout have hampered the country's recovery and lead to a marked deterioration in living standards.