EU leaders call for doubling of IMF firepower

European Union leaders will urge the G20 leading and emerging economies to double the size of the International Monetary Fund's arsenal for fighting global recession to $500 billion, a draft declaration showed on Friday, Reuters reported.

The draft also held out the prospect of the EU offering aid to eastern European states hit hard by the global downturn, but rejected U.S. pressure for the 27-nation bloc to inject more money into their own economies to combat the crisis.

The draft, for issue at a Brussels summit where leaders were seeking a united response to growing economic problems, said the priority remained to see through existing recovery plans and exercise budgetary restraint.

"Now it is time to implement all those packages and promises, so I don't think it's time to create some more packages," Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip told reporters.

EU officials responded coolly to comments by a senior German member of parliament that euro zone countries had outlined a plan to prevent member states which use the currency going bankrupt, with Ireland and Greece top candidates for aid.

The European Central Bank said the information in the deputy's remarks on its role were untrue.

"This is a theoretical question," Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of the 16-member euro zone group, said of the state bankruptcy risk. "It won't happen."

Otto Bernhardt of Germany's ruling conservative party told Reuters the European Central Bank had a fund that could inject emergency funds to a country within 24 hours.

The ECB declined comment on the report, after which the euro eased.

The EU faces growing unemployment, falling production and increasing signs of public discontent over the economic crisis.

Unions said 3 million people took part in protests in France on Thursday and governments have fallen in two member states, Latvia and Belgium, since the global economic crisis began.

But EU leaders are resisting U.S.-led calls to increase the amount of money they are injecting into their economies to combat the crisis, even though the U.S. Federal Reserve pledged an extra $1 trillion on Wednesday to help the U.S. economy.

The EU wants instead to boost the IMF ability to bail out countries that are struggling. The summit draft said the EU would propose at the Group of Twenty summit in London on April 2 that leaders agree to double IMF resources.

The draft gave no figure for the EU contribution. Some EU officials said this was a deliberate move to maintain leverage on other countries such as China and Saudi Arabia before the London meeting.

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