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France, Germany want concrete G20 results

THE leaders of France and Germany struck a more conciliatory tone yesterday ahead of the Group of 20 economic summit, standing firm on the need to sign up to new financial market regulations but backing off from an earlier threat by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to walk out.

Speaking at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Sarkozy said tougher regulations are "nonnegotiable." He demanded concrete steps on tax havens, hedge funds and ratings agencies.

He said France and Germany had set all three as "red lines" in the negotiations, suggesting that if the summit doesn't agree to rein them in, it will have failed.

Merkel said both leaders had come "in a very constructive mood." But she said that "we do not want results that have no impact in practice."

She said several draft texts of the summit's conclusions have been circulating, and the agreement is in "flux."

But while France and Germany - speaking with "one and the same voice" according to Sarkozy - talked of fixing the financial architecture, US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke in their joint press conference about how to stimulate the world out of recession.

The leaders met as thousands of protesters gathered in the British capital's financial district, with some demonstrators smashing their way into major bank while others threw eggs and fruit at police.

Sarkozy avoided reiterating an earlier threat to walk out of the summit. He had implied he might walk out if the summit's agreement didn't toughen financial regulation.

He said Wednesday that: "I have confidence in Obama" and "I am sure that he will help us and that he will understand us."

As for walking out, he said "it would be a waste to leave when i have just arrived."

Asked whether Obama's resistance to greater regulation was growing, Merkel replied: "I can't confirm that."

"We have seen with satisfaction that there is now a great deal of talk about regulation in the United States of America," she said, noting that "there are a lot of versions of the text, things are in flux."

"I think there are definitely chances for us to move forward here in this area, which is important to us," Merkel said.


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