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EU Leaders Seal Crisis Plan for Portugal, Call for Worldwide Nuclear Plant Tests

The flag of the European People's Party (EPP) at the start of a EPP summit, held ahead of an European Union summit in Meise, outside Brussels, March 24, 2011

European Union leaders agreed to strengthen and expand a bailout fund for debt-strapped members using the euro currency and to conduct "stress tests" to assess the security of nuclear reactors during a two-day meeting in Brussels.

The European Union summit was overshadowed by the debt crisis in Portugal, whose prime minister resigned on Wednesday after lawmakers failed to approve the government's latest austerity package.

Anxiety regarding the situation in Portugal remains despite agreement by the 27 EU leaders on a permanent, $700 billion bailout fund for indebted members of the 17-member eurozone. The leaders also agreed to boost the lending power of a temporary bailout fund that expires in 2013.

European Union President Herman Van Rompuy says the agreement caps a series of measures over the last year to strengthen the 17-member group of nations sharing the euro currency. "We have witnessed a seachange. In 12 months, the working of the economic and monetary union of the eurozone was fundamentally improved. We have new rules, we have new instruments and more ambitious policies," he said.

EU leaders also agreed to review safety measures at all European nuclear power plants, and urged other countries to do the same following the accident at Japan's Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant. "Because the danger does not stop at our borders, we encourage and support neighbouring countries to do similar stress tests. A worldwide review of nuclear plants would be best," he said.

European leaders also agreed to further sanctions against the Libyan regime and to provide more humanitarian assistance to the North African country, if needed.