France urges 'firmness' in helping Greece

25th April 2010, Comments 0 comments

France's Finance Minister Christine Lagarde urged EU countries on Sunday to show "firmness" and vigilance in helping Greece out of its budget crisis.

"We are all obliged to show solidarity (with Greece) ... but that doesn't mean we should be complacent," Lagarde said in an interview with the newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.

"We want to restore stability. That doesn't prevent firmness, and we must pay close attention to the results," she added, referring to the 45 billion euro (60 billion dollar) rescue loans package from euro area nations.

Greece appealed Friday for tens of billions of euros in unprecedented help from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to grapple with its dire debt crisis.

The EU said it did not see any "obstacles" and would rapidly respond to the request to activate a three-year debt rescue.

But Germany's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble warned that Germany could yet refuse, while German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said that Berlin was "not ready to write a blank cheque" for Athens.

France's parliament is due to debate its own 6.3-billion-euro slice of aid for Greece on May 3.

"We need control mechanisms to make sure we do not fall into a bottomless pit" of lending to the debt-stricken country, Lagarde said.

Lagarde said later in a television interview from Washington, where IMF members met on Saturday, that the talks on the Greek aid package were not finished.

"The negotiations have not ended, they are carrying on, between the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF," Lagarde said.

She said that it was necessary to let negotiatiors "get to the bottom of things", saying that there were a number of different figures being examined.

But Lagarde said she believed the issue would be settled by the French parliament debate on May 3.

© 2010 AFP

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