Euro zone finance ministers on Monday will look at how to give Greece financial aid should it ask for help, but there were signs France and Germany were holding out on making concrete commitments.
A senior EU source told Reuters ministers would discuss the possibility of providing loan guarantees or bilateral loans to help Athens finance its debts if needed, but said no figure would be put on the amount of help that could be extended.
The 16 countries that use the euro single currency have provided strong verbal and political support to Greece since its debt and deficit problems exploded three months ago, but have been unable to agree on the need for financial aid.
Germany, Europe's biggest economy and the country that would be the linchpin of any support, is reluctant to bail out Greece, saying the country's priority must be to get its own finances in order and make deep structural adjustments to rein in spending.
The 16 finance ministers gather in Brussels from around 1700 (1600 GMT).
Market prices for Greece's debt took heart from hopes of a more detailed commitment by the meeting, but analysts said the failure to do so could spark more selling.
No political decisions will be made, a German government spokesman said on Monday in reference to the meeting of the Eurogroup. He reiterated that Greece had not asked for financial support and was working to resolve its problems by itself.
Greece this month unveiled a set of new austerity measures, including cutting public sector pay and raising taxes, and a poll on Sunday showed most Greeks believe it is a step in the right direction, despite provoking street protests.
The austerity measures and the euro zone's verbal support have helped ease the premium Greece must offer over benchmark German bonds as it seeks to refinance some 20 billion euros in debt in April and May. But the spread remains high and unsustainable, analysts say.
To further insulate Greece against market pressures and the threat of default, which have dented the value of the euro, finance ministers are looking at what measures could be taken should Athens be unable to finance its borrowing.
Under EU rules, neither the bloc nor individual states can assume the debts of other countries, but loan guarantees or similar measures would circumvent those restrictions.
FRANCE SEES NO DECISION
French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said over the weekend she did not expect any figure for aid to be announced.
I'm certainly not expecting any decision being made, or any button being pressed, or any button being selected to be pressed, because it's totally premature, she told reporters late on Saturday.
She said Greece had delivered enormously with its austerity steps which include promised spending cuts equal to 2 percent of gross domestic product.
Germany, whose banks are among the largest owners of Greek sovereign debt, said Athens was taking the right steps to deal with the crisis and said no deal on financial aid was needed.
On Saturday, Britain's Guardian newspaper quoted sources as saying Monday's meeting would agree to make up to 25 billion euros of support available. A senior EU source said that was not on the table.
I think we should be able to agree on principles of a euro area facility for coordinated assistance. The (executive) European Commission and the Eurogroup task force would have the mandate to finalize the work, the source said.
He said they would discuss the principles and parameters of a facility or mechanism that could be activated if needed.
You would have a framework mechanism and you would have blank spaces for the numbers because there has been no request (from Greece) yet, the source said.
Just over half the 1,008 people surveyed for the Greek newspaper Ethnows said last week's 4.8 billion euro ($6.6 billion) package went in the right direction, while 41.9 percent said it did not. Many said unions should tone down their opposition.
Policymakers are also worried the problems in Greece could further undermine confidence in the euro and spread to other heavily indebted euro zone countries such as Portugal or Spain.
The German government spokesman said Monday's meeting would also not get into the details of funding for a European Monetary Fund, an idea that has been proposed by Berlin as another measure to help protect euro zone countries with debt troubles.
Discussing reforms needed to shore up the group's rules, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble reiterated that it should eventually be made possible, in extreme cases, for a state to leave the euro zone if it fails to manage its finances.
We need tighter rules, he told daily Bild. That means in an extreme case, the possibility that a country that does not get its finances in order at all leaves the euro group. Such a prospect alone would ensure a totally different kind of discipline.
(Writing by Luke Baker, editing by Patrick Graham)