Calls mount in Germany for Greece to quit eurozone

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Calls mounted in Germany on Saturday for Greece to consider leaving the eurozone after Athens begged for a 45 billion euro (60 billion dollar) EU and IMF lifeline to relieve its debt crisis.

The government of Germany, Europe's biggest economy, has been been cool towards a bail-out, saying that a rescue plan should only be implemented if the euro's stability is at threat and Athens adopts austerity measures.

Greece "must seriously consider leaving the eurozone," Hans-Peter Friedrich, a senior official of CSU, the Bavarian wing of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats bloc, told Spiegel magazine.

The subject "should not be taboo", he said.

Werner Langen, the head of the Christian Democrats group in the European parliament, agreed that an aid package was not a lasting solution to Greece's mounting problems.

A "viable alternative" was that Greece should "leave the eurozone and become competitive again with the help of tough structural reforms," he told Spiegel.

"This is not an official position" of the party, a party source told AFP, adding that the issue would probably be discussed on Monday at a weekly meeting of conservative leaders.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, also from the Christian Democrats, rejected suggestions that Greece could leave the 16-nation eurozone.

"We have to resolve the crisis within the current (European) treaties," he said in the Sunday edition of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

But he reiterated Germany's demands in order for the bail-out to go ahead, namely that Greece must guarantee extra economic measures in 2011-2012, and that a failure to act would threaten the stability of the euro.

Germany would be the biggest contributor to an aid package, providing around 8.4 billion euros.

Local media said the liberal Free Democrats party, part of the ruling coalition, could table a motion at its annual conference this weekend seeking to exclude from the eurozone troubled countries requiring more aid than the EU alone can give.

Several German newspapers backed this position.

"The only viable solution is a clear break: Greece must leave the euro," said Bild, the country's biggest circulation daily.

Berlin daily Tagesspiegel said it should be the "last resort" if IMF and EU aid does not work.

© 2010 AFP

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