Sarkozy-Merkel talks postponed by a week: Berlin

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Talks between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel planned for Monday in Berlin have been pushed back by one week after scheduling problems, a German official said.

"The meeting has been postponed by one week due to scheduling reasons," the spokeswoman for Merkel's office told AFP.

French diplomatic sources said the talks had been postponed at Germany's request and that a new round of negotiations would take place on June 14.

Explaining the postponement, German government officials said there was insufficient time for the leaders to meet with Merkel holding crunch domestic political talks about new budget cuts.

Negotiations on the German budget on Monday ran slightly longer than planned.

Merkel and Sarkozy had been due to hold preparatory talks for a summit of European Union leaders on June 17 in Brussels, focusing mainly on the topic of European economic coordination.

The run-up to the planned talks had been marked by disagreements between the two European allies, following frequent clashes over multi-billion-euro (dollar) bailout packages for Greece and then the wider eurozone.

Paris had blamed Berlin for dragging its feet over a near trillion-dollar plan drawn up to prevent Greece's fiscal woes from spreading to other vulnerable countries, saying that it pushed up the price of the package.

French officials grumbled that in January, the rescue plan would have cost 15 billion euros versus the around 750 billion euros that were ultimately earmarked.

Moreover, when the plan was eventually agreed, Sarkozy announced to the press that it was "95 percent French," a claim that set off gnashing of teeth in Berlin.

Other rows over economic policy, notably a plea by French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde for Germany to reduce its reliance on exports and boost domestic demand to help the rest of the euro area, added to the tensions.

© 2010 AFP

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