EU summit opens amid Libya splits, Portugal concerns

24th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

European Union leaders opened a two-day summit Thursday divided over military action in Libya and a NATO role in the campaign, while facing a fresh euro crisis over financial woes in Portugal.

Talks between the EU's 27 heads of state and government are set to end mid Friday after covering events in Libya and across the Arab world as well as looking to turn the page on a year of trouble for the bloc's single currency.

Originally scheduled to agree a long-anticipated deal to shore up the euro, leaders went into the talks facing the prospect of having to rescue Portugal after bailing out Greece and Ireland last year.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates resigned on the eve of the summit after parliament rejected his minority government's latest austerity plan -- aimed at avoiding a multi-billion euro financial bailout such as those granted to Athens and Dublin.

Cost-cutting proposals such as those rejected by Lisbon threw thousands of rowdy trade unionists into the streets of Brussels, hurling cobblestones at police manning tight security around the summit venue.

The talks look set for high drama also over foreign policy after Germany broke ranks with partners Britain and France over the international campaign to protect Libyan civilians from attacks by Moamer Kadhafi's regime.

© 2011 AFP

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