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French, German Leaders Urge Help for European Auto Industry

The leaders of France and Germany agreed at a summit Monday on the need to shore up Europe's ailing auto industry, but they differed on the merits of a multi-billion dollar EU rescue package to help the region weather the global economic crisis. Lisa Bryant has more for VOA from Paris.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel presented a united front in championing Europe's auto industry, hard hit by plunging demand in recent months. Helping European auto manufacturers was all the more important, Mr. Sarkozy said, given the financial help Washington may offer to U.S. automakers.

Mr. Sarkozy, whose country currently holds the presidency of the 27-member European Union, also pushed for a European-wide economic development plan. He spoke at a news conference after talks with Ms. Merkel in Paris.

The French president said it is critical to offer fast and strong economic relaunch measures appropriate to each country. Those measures must be coordinated, he said.

But Germany's Angela Merkel has been cool toward moving too fast. In particular, Berlin appears in no hurry to back a $160 billion economic rescue plan for the EU that is due to be unveiled in Brussels on Wednesday.

Merkel also raised concerns that European banks were not offering credit, even after being given major capital injections by governments.

Both leaders also rejected following Britain's move to cut taxes on goods and services as one way to stimulate the economy. But Chancellor Merkel said she and Mr. Sarkozy would hold more talks about other means of targeted aid to boost their economies.