Britain urges eurozone to get its act together

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British Chancellor George Osborne urged eurozone nations on Tuesday to press ahead with plans to beef up a rescue pot "to show the world it can stand behind its currency."

Heading into talks with his 26 European Union finance counterparts, Osborne said "we need to focus on getting the firewall in place", in reference to plans to increase the firepower of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) from 440 billion euros to one trillion euros.

"It is all very well saying we've got the firewall but we need to convincingly show the world that the firewall exists and it has sufficient resources in it," he added.

"The eurozone needs to show the world it can stand behind its currency, it cannot just wait on developments in Athens and in Rome."

Like 10 other members of the EU who do not use the euro, Britain is increasingly concerned over potential damage to its economy from the festering euro crisis.

Ministers went into talks facing a mounting euro credibility gap with Italy, the eurozone's third economy, again facing record borrowing costs on markets despite efforts to reassure.

As the eye of the debt storm has shifted from Athens to Rome in past days, eurozone leaders have sought to dampen fears about Italy's 1.9-trillion-euro debt pile by pushing it to open its books to international scrutiny.

"Italy knows, that given the size of the country, it can't hope to get help from outside," Austria's Finance Minister Maria Fekter told reporters. "That's why these huge efforts are made in Italy at the moment."

At talks in Brussels on Monday, the 17 eurozone nations said the European Central Bank would join the European Commission and the IMF in monitoring Italy's public finances this week.

© 2011 AFP

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