* Tsipras requested meeting with Schaeuble on Berlin visit
* Greek leftist dismisses EU/IMF reforms as failure
* Schaeuble says no alternative if Greece is to keep euro
By Annika Breidthardt and Matthias Sobolewski
BERLIN, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Greek leftist leader Alexis Tsipras told German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Monday that Berlin-backed reforms being pursued by the Greek government had failed totally, driving up unemployment and poverty.
Tsipras, whose Syriza opposition party leads opinion polls in Greece, has led the fight against spending cuts and tax hikes that Germany, its European partners and the IMF have insisted on in return for billions of euros in aid to stave off bankruptcy.
The 38-year-old Greek politician requested a meeting with Schaeuble during a visit to Berlin and told reporters afterwards: “I told him that the austerity programmes have failed all over Europe and especially in Greece.”
“Now we must deal with their impact: poverty, unemployment, the rise of fascism. This nightmare must not return or spread across Europe,” said Tsipras. “Our vision is to see Greece exiting the crisis with its people standing on their feet.”
Greece is in the sixth year of a recession that has fuelled anger against foreign lenders - especially Germany - and the Greek political class, boosting the far-right Golden Dawn party.
Schaeuble belongs to a generation of European politicians who believe that forging closer integration in the European Union is the best way to safeguard democracy and peace.
A German finance ministry source said the minister had “told Mr Tsipras unequivocally that there is no alternative to the ... implementation of the economic adjustment programme. Minister Schaeuble urged Mr Tsipras to back the path embarked upon.”
Tsipras, who says he does not want his country to leave the common European currency, was told by Schaeuble that “Greece can only remain in the euro if the reform programme is successfully implemented”, the German source said.
Schaeuble, 70, had agreed to see Tsipras because he wanted to encourage all political forces in Greece to support the reforms pushed forward by conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, an aide to the minister said.
But even though their differences on how to tackle the euro crisis remained wide, Tsipras called the talks friendly, constructive and “a good start”. “Our differences are only political, not personal,” he said.
Polls suggest the latest 49 billion euros in bailout funds secured by Samaras in December have not boosted the Greek people’s optimism about the crisis and many believe Samaras is failing to fight endemic tax evasion.
Tsipras, who met no German government officials when he came to Berlin last year, repeated his criticism of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative government for demanding Greek austerity measures during a rally with hardline German leftists in Berlin on Sunday.
“Merkel is responsible for the austerity policies that are suffocating southern Europe,” Tsipras told a rally marking the anniversary of murders of communist icons Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in Berlin in 1919.