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Submitted by maithuy on Thu, 03/24/2011 - 10:34
European Union (EU) leaders are meeting Thursday to finalize a response to the year-long debt crisis and discuss the current military attacks against Libya, which have divided the 27-nation bloc.

In preparation for the summit, leaders of the 17 euro-zone countries met earlier this month to remove major hurdles for the comprehensive package to help the EU escape the debt crisis.

The package includes an expansion of the EU's bailout fund, establishment of a permanent rescue mechanism in the eurozone, lower interest rates on bailout loans provided to Greece and Ireland, a new round of stress testing in the banking sector, and reforms to improve economic competitiveness and convergence of eurozone economies.

EU leaders have reached a deal in principle on the package, agreeing to reduce interest rates and extend the repayment period for loans to Greece, hammering out an ambitious reform plan named the Pact for Euro for the single currency club, and pledging to raise the lending capacity of the EU's bailout fund, or the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), to 440 billion euros from the current 250 billion euros.

EU finance ministers on Monday laid out details of the permanent bailout fund, which would become operational in mid-2013 and have a capital base of 700 billion euros to deal with future debt crises.

A meeting of EU foreign ministers on Monday exposed divisions among EU capitals on Libya, a reminder of Europe's split over the U.S.-led war against Iraq eight years ago.

Among the 27 EU member states, France fired the first shots on Saturday. They were joined by the U.S. and Britain hours later.

So far, Italy, Denmark, Spain and Belgium have contributed to the coalition forces, but Germany, Malta and Poland have refused to commit forces.

Xinhuanet/VOVNews

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