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Merkel says 'Europe's future not at stake' in Greek crisis

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(BERLIN) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that "the future of Europe is not at stake" from the Greek crisis but warned against striking a compromise at any price that could weaken the EU.

"Yes, these are turbulent days. And the stakes indeed are high," Merkel told Germany's Bundestag lower house of parliament, a day after debt-laden Greece crashed out of an EU aid programme and became the first advanced economy to default on an IMF payment.

"The world is watching us. But the future of Europe is not at stake. The future of Europe would be at stake if we forgot who we are and what makes us strong -- a community based on rules and responsibility," she said.

"If we forgot that, the euro would fail, and with it Europe," said Merkel, who through years of eurozone turmoil has championed tough reforms and cost-cutting in return for bailout cash from the EU, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

She said that after years of crisis Europe had become "more robust" and that although the present situation was difficult "it is primarily a source of agony for the people of Greece".

Merkel said Europe could now "calmly" await the outcome of a referendum called for Sunday by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspiras on the country's bailout terms, because the bloc was "strong".

She reiterated earlier remarks by her finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, that a new aid deal between Greece and its creditors could not be negotiated before Sunday's referendum.

The chancellor stressed she didn't want a half-hearted compromise with Greece, but rather seeks an outcome that shows a globalised world that a strong EU sticks to its rules and values.

"I don't want us to get through the crisis any which way, to seek calm as quickly as possible and say all's well," Merkel said.

"I want Europe to emerge stronger from the crisis than it went into the crisis, so that we are strong as we compete with China, India, South America and others, so that we can convincingly stand for our interests, our way of doing business, of working, of living, and our values -- freedom, human dignity and the rule of law," Merkel told lawmakers.

The millions at play "in fact do not represent an insurmountable hurdle", Merkel said, but she warned that "a compromise at any price would be a compromise for the sake of compromise".

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