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US Bailout Talks Continue; Britain's Brown Pledges Support

U.S. lawmakers say they will work through the weekend to agree on a plan to rescue the country's endangered financial institutions. And Britain's prime minister, on a visit to the White House, is pledging his support for whatever plan emerges. VOA's Kent Klein reports from Washington.

Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill met Friday with Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, to work out differences on an economic rescue plan. The top Democrat in the House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, says the negotiations are moving in the right direction.

"I believe that great progress has been made. As I have said before, we will not leave until legislation is passed that will be signed by the President, and we will be working through the weekend to achieve that end," he said.

U.S. President George Bush is proposing a controversial $700 billion bailout for the nation's troubled financial institutions.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown met with Mr. Bush at the White House late Friday, and offered his backing. "Britain supports the financial plan, and whatever the details offered, it is the right thing to do to take us through these difficult circumstances," he said.

Mr. Brown said other major industrialized countries are also supporting efforts to calm the troubled U.S. financial industry. "Other countries whom I have talked to, during the course of the last week in New York, every continent, all the members of the G-7, believe that America deserves the support of the rest of the world in the action it is taking to secure stability and to deal with the turbulence in the financial markets," he said.

After meeting with Mr. Brown, the President said he assured the British leader that a deal will be reached, and that it will be effective. "What the prime minister wants to know is, 'Is the plan we have devised big enough to make a difference, and is it going to be passed?' And I told him the plan is big enough to make a difference, and I believe it is going to be passed," he said.

Earlier Friday, Mr. Bush told Congress it must rise to the occasion and reach an agreement soon. "There are disagreements over aspects of the rescue plan. But there is no disagreement that something substantial must be done. The legislative process is sometimes not very pretty, but we are going to get a package passed," he said.

Much of the opposition to the proposal has come from within President Bush's own party. Republicans in the House of Representatives are demanding "serious consideration" of a proposal which would provide no government money up front for a financial rescue. House Minority Leader John Boehner says he and fellow House Republicans are protecting the taxpayers' best interests.

"There are a lot of proposals out there that will work. What we have got to do is to do our best on behalf of taxpayers."

Public opinion polls show that the President's economic rescue plan is not popular. Only 30 percent of Americans polled say they support Mr. Bush's package. Another 45 percent oppose the plan, and 25 percent are unsure about it.

Friday's news from the U.S. economy highlights the urgency of the situation. The Commerce Department reported Friday that the U.S. gross domestic product increased at a two-point-eight-percent annual rate from April to June, less than the three-point-three-percent growth estimate made one month ago.

Also, Thursday saw the largest single bank failure in U.S. history. Washington Mutual collapsed, and its $307 billion in assets were sold to J.P. Morgan Chase for $1.9 billion.