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Business

Germany: Stability Pact Revamp Needs Time

German Finance Minister Hans Eichel downplayed Monday hopes of a quick agreement on reforming the budget rules underpinning the euro, saying more time and possibly an extra meeting was needed. "I don't believe we will reach an agreement today ... We need more time," he told reporters on arrival at a meeting with his counterparts from the 12-nation euro countries. "I fear that it is like it always is in Europe: we need another special meeting before we can close the door," he added. The clock is ticking for ministers to agree on reforms to the European Union's much-maligned Stability and Growth Pact, which sets strict limits on deficits, before a March 22-23 summit. The pact was left in tatters after euro-zone heavyweights France and Germany were let off the hook in November 2003 despite repeatedly breaching its key rule. Since then nearly half of the EU's states have broken its strictures. Finance ministers from the 12-nation euro countries were meeting Monday evening, ahead of regular monthly talks among the full 25-member EU on Tuesday.

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