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France/Greece

Sarkozy says EU ready to back Greece 'if necessary'

Photo: Reuters

French President Nicolas Sarkozy met with his Greek counterpart Prime Minister George Papandreou on Sunday for talks about helping Greece survive its current debt crisis. After spending time in Berlin Papandreou travelled to Paris where he was told by Sarkozy that other European governments would support the Greek economy if “necessary”, although he suggested that at the moment, “Greece is not in need of financing”.

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“I want to be very clear,” said Sarkozy at a joint press conference. “Eurozone governments will fulfil their commitments and there can be no doubt about that.”

He said eurozone countries were establishing a set of specific measures to help Greece, although  no EU country has so far offered a bailout.

Greece needs to borrow around 50 billion euros this year, with 20 billions euros due by May. The country’s public deficit is four times higher than the European Union’s maximum limit.

Other eurozone countries are concerned that defaulting on any debt could seriously affect the euro currency.

Papandreou said that “solutions exist to address problems if our country needs to borrow”, adding that they want to continue borrowing money “like any other country of the eurozone, according to similar rates, perhaps not identical, but comparable”.

Previously the Greek PM had suggested that he was prepared to go to the International Monetary Fund for assistance, an idea unpopular with other eurozone countries.

But following yesterday’s meeting Papandreou underlined his desire for a “European” solution, saying he had no immediate plans to ask the IMF for help.

Greek's central bank governor, George Provopoulos, said on Monday he was confident that they could find the money for the May repayment deadline.

“I have no doubt that it [the government] will be in a position to pull together the necessary money,” he told the Financial Times Deutschland.

Meanwhile in Greece, Monday’s papers were hailing Sarkozy, according to Le Monde. Left-leaning daily Eleftherotypia said the meeting with the French president showed “clear support”.

Papandreou goes to Washington on Tuesday to look for backing from US President Barack Obama.

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