Greece could exit the euro by accident, Finance Minister Gikas Hardouvelis said Tuesday in a new warning of what could happen if anti-austerity leftist party Syriza wins the election later this month.
"An accident could happen (in a stand-off with Europe), and the whole idea is to avoid it," Hardouvelis, an economist and technocrat -- who has drawn Syriza's ire by wading into the political debate -- told Bloomberg TV.
Syriza, who are broadly expected to win snap elections on January 25, want to renegotiate Greece's EU-IMF bailout deal and write off a large portion of the country's enormous debt.
Syriza's 40-year-old leader Alexis Tsipras argues that Greece's European partners, and Germany in particular, have realised that austerity has failed and will not refuse a renegotiation.
"There is not even a chance in a million that (German Chancellor Angela) Merkel will refuse to negotiate," Tsipras told Star TV late on Monday.
The outgoing government of conservative PM Antonis Samaras says Syriza's policies are tantamount to a debt default that could cost Greece its place in the eurozone.
Hardouvelis on Tuesday noted that Greeks "cannot threaten the rest (of Europe) with our own exit".
"This is not a bargaining chip on our side... Europe has built defenses against a country leaving the euro area," he told Bloomberg.
On Monday, the finance ministry had also warned that Syriza would face a rapid cash shortage should it win the election and then challenge the country's EU-IMF creditors.
The ministry said Greece has already exhausted a 15-billion-euro (over $17-billion) cap on treasury bill sales and would need the consent of its European Union and International Monetary Fund creditors to sell more.