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G20 ramps up pressure on Europe to end crisis

Los Cabos, Mexico, June 19, 2012

World leaders pressured Europe to take ambitious steps to resolve its debt crisis after a victory for pro-bailout parties in a Greek election failed to calm markets or ease worries that wider turmoil could derail the global economy.

The world's major industrialized and developing economies were set to urge Europe to take "all necessary policy measures" to resolve a crisis that has now raged for over two years, according to a draft communique seen by Reuters that was prepared for a Group of 20 summit in this Mexican resort town.

US President Barack Obama, concerned that Europe's woes could upend his re-election hopes, requested a meeting with its leaders on Monday evening.

Earlier he met with Germany's Angela Merkel, who as the leader of Europe's biggest economy is under intense pressure to mo ve faster on deeper financial and fiscal union in the euro zone, b ut has so far resisted. Obama's spokesman said the U.S. president was encouraged by the talks, which touched on steps to "increase European integration".

In an apparent response to concerns among investors that Europe's banks could drag down entire countries, the euro zone members of the G20 would break "the feedback loop between sovereigns and banks," the draft communique said.

European officials hit back at the notion that they were to blame for weakening growth across the globe, and played down hopes for any quick miracle cure for the 17-nation euro zone.

"Frankly, we are not coming here to receive lessons in terms of democracy or in terms of how to run our economy," said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

Protected by Mexican navy vessels and troops on sun-baked beaches and highways, leaders from the G20 countries representing more than 80 percent of world output began a two-day meeting to prioritize growth and job creation against a backdrop of a weakening global economy.

The World Bank last week lowered its forecast for global growth in 2012 to 2.5 percent and said developing nations faced a long period of financial market volatility and weaker growth.

In its strongest signal in three years that it would act to strengthen the recovery, the G20 said in their draft communique that countries without heavy debts problems were ready to act together to spur growth, if the economy slows a lot more.

The United States has pressed Germany as well as China to stimulate spending in order to help the world economy.

Rising violence in Syria and the near-collapse of a United Nations-brokered peace plan was also in focus as US President Barack Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two super powers have clashed over arming Syria and UN sanctions.

Obama and Putin agreed that the violence in Syria has to end but offered no new solutions and showed no signs of reaching a deal on tougher sanctions against Damascus.

Europe's battle against a debt crisis that has led Greece, Ireland and Portugal to seek EU/IMF rescues, and forced Spain to seek aid for its banks, dominated the opening discussion of G20 leaders on the global economy.

A narrow victory for the conservative New Democracy party in the Greek election on Sunday eased concerns the heavily indebted country could exit the euro zone soon but did little to calm financial markets.

After an initial relief rally, the euro fell against the dollar and Spanish bond yields hit a new euro-era high above 7 percent. European stocks ended 1.2 percent lower.

Fitch Ratings agency said the Greek result had lowered the risk of a disorderly default and the scenario of a euro zone exit, but it also warned that any new government in Athens was likely to be fragile.

"The win in Greece does not really resolve anything," said Boris Schlossberg, managing director at investment advisory firm BK Asset Management in New York. "It's still going to be tough for Greece."

Merkel, speaking to reporters after landing on the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California peninsula in the middle of the night, welcomed the Greek result but said she could not accept any loosening of the austerity measures and deep structural reforms Athens has agreed to as a condition of its two EU/IMF bailouts totaling 240 billion euros.

"The Greek government will and must deliver on the commitments it has agreed to," she said.

That puts her on a collision course with the winner of the Greek vote, conservative Antonis Samaras, who campaigned pledging to renegotiate elements of the rescue and reiterated that stance on Monday, saying "amendments" were needed to relieve "crippling unemployment and huge hardships" for Greeks.

Greece will ask to spread 11.7 billion euros in austerity cuts over four years instead of two, a New Democracy party source told Reuters in Athens.

German frustration with Greece's failure to deliver on its reform pledges has risen in recent months, as has Greek anger at the tough austerity prescribed by Berlin and its partners. - Reuters




Tags: Europe | Germany | debt | Obama | Crisis | G20 |

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