Reuters International

Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras attends the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, June 22, 2016. REUTERS/Jean-Marc Loos

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ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose own rebellion against European Union policy brought the bloc to a crisis last year, said on Saturday he did not blame the British people for voting to leave but rather EU leaders.

Speaking to his leftist Syriza party's central committee, Tsipras blamed the Brexit outcome on the "chronic deficiencies" of European leaders and their insistence on austerity policies that fed populism and nationalism.

"As much as the decision of the British people saddens us, it is a decision to be respected. We must not put the blame on the British people ... when the borders remain open on austerity policies but stay closed for people," Tsipras said.

Tsipras led his Syriza party to victory in two elections and a referendum last year in an attempt to end years of austerity imposed on euro zone member Greece because of its untenable debt.

However, he was forced by the euro zone to accept more conditions as a quid pro quo for another bailout and continued membership of the euro zone.

Tsipras spoke on the phone with French President Francois Hollande on Saturday and the two leaders agreed on the need for solidarity in the multi-nation bloc.

"The common assessment was the need to refound the principles of democracy, social protection and solidarity in Europe," Tsipras' office said in a statement on the conversation.

(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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