France and Italy give thumbs-up to Greek financial aid
French and Italian foreign ministers says they are in favour of financial aid for Greece despite opposition from EU powerhouse Germany. French minister Bernard Kouchner said it was important to support Greece as a fellow member of the Eurozone. His Italian counterpart, Franco Frattini, called on other European countries not to abandon Athens saying the credibility of Europe was in danger.
Greece is asking for the 27 EU members to approve a financial aid package at a two-day summit which opens on Thursday. Spain, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, says it will push the bloc to agree a deal.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreaou has said a failure to approve an aid package could force the country to turn to the International Monetary Fund instead.
On Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Papandreao that the EU was ready to do what was necessary to preserve the stability of the Eurozone. But in a radio interview, she said she opposed any move by EU leaders to take a firm decision this week over the Greek question, She claimed the country did not need the money at the moment.
The German government's reluctance to approve any aid to Greece reflects widespread unease among taxpayers. A poll in the Financial Times, show 61 per cent of Germans oppose a bailout.
Greece is buried under a debt of 300 billion euros and has approved austerity measures to slash a runaway public deficit that is close to 13 per cent of national output. This is more than four times the limit allowed by the Eurozone.