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May 15, 2012

French, German Leaders Offer Show of Unity in Resolving Euro Zone Crisis

by Lisa Bryant

PARIS - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's new President Francois Hollande sought common ground in resolving Europe's economic crisis during their first meeting in Berlin on Tuesday.  But, the two leaders hold sharply different views.

Hours after being sworn in as France's new president, Hollande was in Berlin, holding dinner talks with Chancellor Merkel.

At a joint press conference,  Merkel said she hoped that debt-strapped Greece would remain in the euro zone - a sentiment echoed by  Hollande.  Both leaders also spoke about the need for economic growth along with austerity measures for the 17-member euro zone to emerge from economic recession and financial crisis.

But the show of unity did not resolve the deep differences between the two leaders.

President Hollande said his responsibility was to send a signal to Greece, and he acknowledged the country's economic hardships.  Greece has seen the rise of political parties that are against austerity measures, raising concerns about the country's commitment to meeting the terms of a financial bailout agreement and its future in the euro zone.  Chancellor Merkel championed the European fiscal pact that requires signatories to balance their national budgets.

Hollande was sworn in as France's new president only hours before the two leaders met.  He said he wants to renegotiate the budget agreement to include growth measures.

Chancellor Merkel says the deal signed last year - and reached in collaboration with France's former President Nicolas Sarkozy - is not negotiable.

But Hollande downplayed their differences.  He said his first official meeting with  Merkel was an introduction and a time to look jointly for solutions to Europe's economic crisis.  Merkel said she agreed.