US Treasury chief Geithner in vital eurozone talks

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US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner arrived in Poland on Friday for vital talks with European finance ministers, as eurozone nations scramble to douse the Greek debt fire.

Geithner, who has taken the rare step of joining EU ministers, did not speak to waiting reporters as he entered a congress centre in Wroclaw, southwest Poland.

He arrived alongside French Finance Minister Francois Baroin. France hosted the American only last week at a meeting of the G7 industrialised nations.

Geithner was invited to attend the talks by Poland, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the 27-nation EU.

Polish Finance Minister Jacek Rostowski underscored the significance of a US presence at such an EU meeting.

"It's no accident that the US Treasury Secretary is visiting Europe for the second time in the space of about a week. One thing's for sure, he hasn't just come to pick mushrooms in our beautiful forests," Rostowski told reporters on the eve of the talks.

"It's rare for him to set foot in Europe, so coming twice in about a week, I think speaks for itself," he added.

Poland, one of Washington's staunchest EU allies, is not part of the 17-nation eurozone, and two ministers from the single currency area were less fulsome about Geithner's involvement.

"We can exchange views with our American colleagues, but I'd also like to know how the United States is going to reduce its deficit and tackle its debt. As you know, American debt today is greater than that of Europe," Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders told reporters in Wroclaw.

"We will discuss the worldwide situation, but first of all I want to know how it is possible in the US to get back to a balanced situation," Reynders said.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble echoed that.

"There are problems in Europe and in the United States. And we have to solve our problems on both sides of the Atlantic, to get more stability in the financial markets, because this is the main reasons why we have to fear a weakening of global development," Schaeuble said.

"We Europeans have to do our homework together and the Americans have to do theirs, and then we can exchange views. We're not telling each other what to do, but we're exchanging views," he added.

On Wednesday, Geithner had said that European leaders "recognize they are going to have to do more, they recognize they have been behind the curve".

"They have to move more quickly," he added.

He said Europe needed to shore up global confidence that it can handle the crisis stemming from unsupportable debt loads in countries like Greece, as well as Portugal and Ireland.

But he said he believed Europeans had the will, tools and financing to handle the crisis.

"This is their challenge and they have the economic and the financial capacity to meet this challenge," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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