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UPDATE 1-Macron, in Greece, pushes vision of deeper euro zone integration

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ATHENS, Sept 7 (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday backed Germany's idea of a European Monetary Fund (EMF) but stressed the ultimate goal should remain a euro zone budget.

Macron wants a giant leap forward in European cooperation, pushing for the creation of a euro zone finance minister and parliament, as well as a stand alone budget for the currency bloc to cushion economic shocks and head off future crises.

The French leader is running up against resistance in Berlin despite conciliatory public signals from German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Her finance minister has proposed transforming the euro zone's rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), into a fully fledged EMF that would have more powers to support vulnerable member states.

"We should head towards a European Monetary Fund but this should in no way be mixed up with a (euro zone) budget," Macron said during a visit to Athens.

Macron praised Greece's austerity reforms and reiterated his call for an easing of the Greek debt burden.

Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos said Greece supported France's proposals for a closer euro zone. He said the ESM should be reformed and replace the International Monetary Fund in Europe.

"We respect the IMF, but we can manage better with an organization which was set up to have a European mentality and understand the euro zones special features," Pavlopoulos told Macron.

Euro zone governments in June approved another 11th-hour credit line for Greece worth nearly $10 billion after the IMF said it would in principle join the country's current bailout having hesitated for two years.

Macron helped bridge differences between the fund and some euro zone member states, including Germany. (Reporting by Michel Rose and Renee Maltezou; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)