German MPs debate unpopular Greek aid

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German MPs wrangled Friday over providing billions in aid to Greece, but Chancellor Angela Merkel was confident of heading to an EU summit later with the necessary legislation in her pocket.

Opinion polls have shown a majority of voters oppose providing 22.4 billion euros (28.2 billion dollars) ahead of a key state election on Sunday, but Merkel's coalition has enough votes in parliament to ensure it will pass.

Lawmakers in the Bundestag lower house were due to vote on the legislation at around 11:10 am (0910 GMT). Assuming it passes, the bill then goes to the upper house and then to President Horst Koehler before becoming law.

A group of eurosceptics who tried to stop Germany adopting the single currency in 1998 have said they will file an injunction later on Friday in the country's highest court but Berlin is confident the challenge will fail.

Germany, as Europe's biggest economy, is the biggest contributor among eurozone nations to a 110-billion-euro aid package over three years hammered out with the Greek government in exchange for drastic austerity measures.

The loans "are not risk-free. But if there is a fire you have to grab hold of the nearest fire extinguisher," Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told the Bild daily.

"No European treaty forbids us from acting if we see danger for our currency and therefore for our citizens."

Bild has dubbed the aid "the fattest cheque in history."

© 2010 AFP

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