A small group of European finance ministers was meeting on Friday to discuss the euro zone debt crisis, official sources told Reuters, as Greece denied a media report that it was considering whether to leave the bloc.
European official sources told Reuters that finance ministers from a handful of the largest euro zone countries were meeting privately in Luxembourg to talk about issues including the debt problems of Greece and Portugal.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and his deputy Joerg Asmussen were at the meeting, a source in Germany's ruling coalition said. The meeting was not publicly revealed in advance, and the identities of the other officials attending were not known.
Germany's Spiegel Online reported the ministers would discuss the possibility of Greece leaving the 17-member euro zone, as well as the idea of Athens restructuring its €327-billion ($470-billion U.S.) sovereign debt.
"The government has raised the possibility of leaving the euro zone and reintroducing its own currency," Spiegel said, without citing its sources.
Greece's Deputy Finance Minister Filippos Sachinidis denied the report, suggesting it played into the hands of currency traders. The euro fell slightly against the dollar in response to the report before recovering most of its losses.
"The report about Greece leaving the euro zone is untrue," Mr. Sachinidis told Reuters. "Such reports undermine Greece and the euro and serve market speculation games."
Jean-Claude Juncker, head of the group of euro zone finance ministers, also said the report was wrong. "I totally deny that there is a meeting, these reports are totally wrong," Mr. Juncker's spokesman, Guy Schuller, told Reuters by telephone.
A European official source told Reuters that the Luxemborug meeting was reviewing a range of issues such as the economic situations of Portugal and Greece as well as the future leadership of the European Central Bank.
He said there were no plans for a restructuring of Greece's debt. Last May, the country obtained a €110-billion bailout from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, but it has been struggling to cut its budget deficit as fast as planned amid a deep recession.
A German government official told Reuters that a Greek exit from the euro zone "is not planned and was not planned", while a spokesman for the Austrian finance ministry said a breakup of the bloc would be "absolutely unthinkable".
Spiegel quoted from what it said was an internal German finance ministry paper that Mr. Schaeuble was taking with him to Luxembourg, which warned that a Greek exit "would lead to a significant depreciation of the domestic currency versus the euro" and increase Greece's debt levels to 200 per cent of gross domestic product.