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British PM says he shares common ground with France's socialist president

Britain's Prime minister David Cameron backs Hollande deficit plans

AFP, Friday 18 May 2012
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British Prime Minister David Cameron backed new French President Francois Hollande's deficit plans as the leaders prepared to meet for the first time in Washington on Friday.

Socialist Hollande is expected to press for pro-growth policies at this weekend's Group of Eight meeting, but the Conservative Cameron said Britain's austerity-focused coalition government shared common ground with the Frenchman.

The two men will hold a pre-summit meeting in Washington later Friday, with Cameron trying to make up for lost ground after he snubbed Hollande on his visit to London during the French presidential election campaign.

"Even with the election of a Socialist president in France, he's actually said 'how am I going to stimulate the economy, I'm not going to do it through extra public spending, because actually we've got to cut back on that'," Cameron told ITV1's television's Daybreak show.

"His target for balancing his budget is actually a faster target than we have here in the UK," he said, referring to Hollande's pledge to balance the French budget by 2017.

Britain also says it is on course to virtually wipe out its budget deficit by 2017, but that is over a longer timeframe than under Hollande's proposals, since Cameron's coalition government came to power in 2010.

Facing growing criticism at home for sticking to austerity even though Britain is in double-dip recession, Cameron has appeared keen to align himself with the pro-growth movement sweeping Europe in recent weeks.

But he insisted that his government was on the right course, saying: "You need a plan to get on top of your debt and deficit to get your economy growing."

Cameron meanwhile renewed his call for eurozone powers to do more to tackle the debt crisis, which has spiralled among fears of a Greek exit from the troubled single currency.

"As well as saying I will keep Britain safe, I was saying we've got to do more to persuade the eurozone countries to take the really decisive action to deal with the problems that they've got," he said.

Cameron, Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, EU president Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso held a videoconference on Thursday ahead of the G8.

Cameron said the Group of Eight industrialised nations meeting at Camp David should also "support the march of democracy" led by protesters in the Arab world.

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