Germany, France seek prompt action on Irish bailout

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicholas Sarkozy on Thursday urged quick action on an agreement providing Ireland with a financial bailout from the EU and IMF.

The two leaders, who spoke by telephone Thursday, "agreed that negotiations with the Irish government must be rapidly concluded," a statement from the chancellor's press office said.

Merkel and Sarkozy also said they had been "impressed by the public finance recovery program presented by the Irish government," the statement added.

Ireland, struggling with debt and a huge public deficit, is currently negotiating a rescue package with the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund that could amount to around 85 billion euros (114 billion dollars).

Diplomatic sources in Brussels said the talks were set to be wrapped up on Sunday, with an announcement "probable" the same day.

A meeting of finance ministers from the 16-nation eurozone followed by talks among finance chiefs from the full 27-nation EU, most likely by telephone, is scheduled for Sunday to approve the aid package and the conditions that Dublin would to have to meet in exchange.

Ireland would thus become the second eurozone member to receive EU-IMF financial support following an aid package approved for Greece in May.

The Irish government on Wednesday unveiled a hard-hitting austerity plan designed to save 15 billion euros.

Jobless and family support benefits will be cut, as well public sector retirement payments and the minimum wage.

An estimated 25,000 jobs will be eliminated from the public sector.

Merkel and Sarkozy in their exchange on Thursday also agreed that a mechanism currently in place to assist EU countries in financial difficulty "will remain in effect without modification until 2013," according to the statement from the chancellor's office.

But the German and French governments "are working intensively on a joint proposal for a permanent crisis resolution mechanism that would replace it (the current facility) after 2013," the statement added.

© 2010 AFP

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