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March 8, 2010

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Sarkozy defends debt-ridden Greece

FELLOW eurozone countries cannot abandon debt-ridden Greece because doing so would defeat the purpose of the common currency project, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Saturday, a day before meeting the Greek prime minister in Paris.

George Papandreou has been on a four-city foreign tour to drum up support for his harsh new austerity program announced last week, hoping to get something concrete enough from his European partners to calm markets and bring down the country's high borrowing cost, which is about twice that of Germany's.

Papandreou met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin last Friday, as Athens was rattled by more strikes and violent protests over the economic measures, and was to arrive in Paris yesterday evening.

The French leader is seen as far more sympathetic to the country's problem than Merkel, who has avoided a commitment of financial aid. Papandreou began his tour in Luxembourg early Friday, and will fly from Paris to Washington.

"If we created the euro, we cannot drop a eurozone country - otherwise it wasn't worth it to create the euro," Sarkozy said. "That's why I'm supporting Greece."

Sarkozy said he would fight to defend the entire European Union's economy "with the same fierce energy" as he said he has for Europe's common agricultural policy, which benefits French farmers.

Greece has said earlier that unless it gets backing for its 4.8 billion euro (US$6.5 billion) package, it may have to turn to the International Monetary Fund.


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