France says won't sign G20 document if unsatisfied

LONDON Tue Mar 31, 2009 7:12pm BST

LONDON (Reuters) - France will walk away from the G20 crisis summit this week without signing the communique if it does not get what it wants, French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said.

Lagarde made the comment in an interview with the BBC, although she declined to repeat the threat in a subsequent interview with Reuters on Tuesday.

Asked by the BBC what France would do if the summit failed to satisfy French objectives, Lagarde said:

"President (Nicolas) Sarkozy was very clear on that front, he said if the deliverables are not there, I won't sign the communique -- that means walking away."

She described Sarkozy as "very determined."

The comments were published on the BBC's website on Tuesday. They are likely to stir tension before Thursday's London summit, when leaders from old and emerging powers will try to agree on a unified approach to tackling the worst financial crisis in living memory.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown played down talk of a walkout.

"The prime minister had a very constructive conversation with the president (Sarkozy) yesterday and he looks forward to his full participation in the summit," the spokesman told Reuters.

Sarkozy on Tuesday stressed the importance of taking concrete steps at the summit.

"I want results. It's in everyone's interest to get them," he told reporters on a visit in western France. "We have to get results, there's no choice, the crisis is too serious to allow us to have a summit for nothing."

Divisions have opened up between much of continental Europe and the United States over pumping more public money into the world's struggling economy to stave off a prolonged slump.

Lagarde has said France may do more if necessary, but said nations should wait to see what effect current stimulus measures were having before taking any further action.

Europe has also pushed hard for a strict, far-reaching overhaul of financial regulation, while Britain and the United States appear to favor a lighter touch approach.

Any breakdown in negotiations on Thursday would likely trigger a negative reaction from financial markets with investors looking for a strong and swift response from global policymakers.

It would also be a political headache for Brown who has spent months trying to build an international consensus ahead of the summit.

Brown is hoping a successful G20 will boost his dwindling popularity ratings in Britain ahead of an election which must be called by mid-2010.