German foreign minister hits out at US over debt crisis

BERLIN, Oct 16, 2011 (AFP) - Germany's foreign minister Sunday lashed out at the United States over criticism the eurozone is not doing enough to solve its economic woes, noting that US debt had also contributed to the current crisis.

Guido Westerwelle told the Bild am Sonntag weekly: "Let us not forget that the cause of the current crisis is too much debt in Europe, but also too much debt worldwide.

"Therefore, I cannot understand some of the critical comments from our American friends regarding our policy of reducing debt."

Westerwelle's remarks were the latest in a series of barbs between Berlin and Washington over Europe's perceived dithering over the crisis.

Last month, US President Barack Obama urged Europe to act faster to find a solution, saying the debt and banking crisis was "scaring the world," prompting a furious and undiplomatic response from Germany's finance minister.

"It's always much easier to give advice to others than to decide for yourself. I am well prepared to give advice to the US government," said Wolfgang Schaeuble.

"Even if Obama is thinking the opposite, I don't think the problems of Europe are the reason for the problems of the US," he said.

And on Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel took a clear swipe at the US, saying that she could not accept that those urging faster action on the debt crisis were also blocking a proposed tax on financial market transactions.

However, Obama and Merkel discussed the crisis on Friday and top American finance officials appeared to be happier with Europe's progress towards a solution at a meeting of the G20 in Paris a day later.

US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said finance ministers and central bankers had "heard encouraging things from our European colleagues in Paris about a new comprehensive plan to deal with the crisis on the continent."

Westerwelle hinted at a three-point plan: "Europe must become a stability union worthy of the name; we need hard punishments for nations with permanently weak budgetary situations; the competitiveness of EU states must be raised."

He reiterated Berlin's opposition to eurobonds -- issuing eurozone-wide debt -- that several economists suggest would be an effective solution to the crisis.

"We shouldn't make it easier to rack up debts. Quite the opposite: solid budgets and reducing debts are the order of the day," Westerwelle said.

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