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Steinbrück attacks Merkel's euro-crisis management

Chancellor Angela Merkel's election rival, Peer Steinbrück, has attacked the government's handling of the eurozone debt crisis. Steinbrück said Germany needed to give Greece more time to implement economic reforms.

Steinbrück told German Sunday newspaper Welt am Sonntag that Merkel must be prepared to come clean over the need for Germany to remain committed to supporting crisis-stricken Greece.

"In the case of Greece, we cannot tighten the screws any further. The Greeks must stand by their commitments, but we must also give them more time," Steinbrück said.

"And the chancellor must finally tell the German people the truth: Greece will not be able to borrow money on the capital markets in the coming seven or eight years. We will have to help it until then," he continued.

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Steinbrück launches challenge

Greece's coalition government agreed this week on the fundamental points of a multi-billion-euro savings package needed to qualify for the latest installment of its second rescue package.

But despite additional cutbacks, economists have warned that Greece may not be able to return to international capital markets after its second bailout program ends, as was expected. Instead, it may even seek a third financial bailout.

Third bailout not ruled out

In Sunday's interview Steinbrück remained candid over whether his opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) would support a third bailout in the Bundestag, saying it would depend on the conditions attached. He firmly rejected, however, the prospect of a Greek eurozone exit.

"The political and economic reverberations would be devastating," the former finance minister said.

Greece's commitment to fiscal reforms is currently being assessed by the so-called troika of the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Steinbrück's comments come just days after he was named the SPD candidate who will take on Chancellor Merkel in next year's federal election.

The 65-year-old is a former premier of Germany's most-populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, and served as the former federal finance minister in a coalition government led by Merkel between 2005 and 2009.

ccp/tm (AFP, Reuters)

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