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Greek PM Pleads for Lower Interest Rates on Debt

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The prime minister of Greece has warned his country may not be able to pay down its debt, unless it gets more help from the European Union.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou told European lawmakers in Brussels Thursday that Greece cannot sustain its austerity plan to get out of its financial crisis if the EU does not help it get lower interest rates for borrowed money.

He called on EU members to present a financial aid package at a summit scheduled for next week.  He said Greece does not need money but that without a guarantee of lower interest rates, Greece would have to turn to the Washington-based International Monetary Fund for help.

Mr. Papandreou's government has already implemented a series of austerity measures, including higher taxes and pay freezes for government workers.

Greece is one of 16 countries that use the euro as its currency.  The value of the euro has tumbled amid concerns Greece will default on its debt.

The Greek budget deficit is nearly 13 percent - four times higher than the maximum allowed under European Union rules.

Late Wednesday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso praised what he called the "remarkable" efforts of the Greek government.  But there are divisions among European Union members about how to deal with the Greek debt crisis.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday warned other EU countries against giving Greece what she called "rash" financial support.  She also said the EU monetary union should be able to expel members who violate the rules repeatedly.

Other European officials have said that a failure to help Greece would show that Europe is not capable of handling its own problems.

Meanwhile, Greek taxi drivers went on strike in Athens Thursday and many gas stations were closed.  The strike is the latest in a series of protests against the Greek government's austerity program.

 

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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