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Sydney Morning Herald

Global Protests Pressure G20

Karen Kissane

Placards cover two ATM machines outside St Paul's Cathedral in London yesterday. (photo: AFP)

World leaders are under pressure to produce a decisive plan to rescue the euro zone after a meeting of G20 finance ministers vowed that they did not want any ''contagion'' from Europe's financial crisis to affect their own economies.

The ministers met in Paris as protests against corporate greed, government incompetence and growing inequality went global, with demonstrations in 950 cities in more than 80 countries intensifying pressure on world leaders to come up with a final rescue plan at a Council of Europe meeting due to be held in Brussels this weekend (October 22-23).

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, speaking after the Paris meeting, said several ministers from developing countries raised concerns over the crisis in Europe.

''It's clear that compared to our meeting three weeks ago in Washington the situation has not got better. If there has been a change, it's a negative change. Risk perspectives are more sombre and the weak economic situation of advanced economies is now affecting emerging countries,'' Ms Lagarde said.

''There was a clear consensus around the room that the key priority at this point in time is for the members of the euro zone and for the Europeans in general to address the overall complex issues,'' she said.

Germany and France have said they have a proposal that will be announced at the Brussels summit. The deal will probably involve increasing again the size of the euro zone's bailout fund, shoring up Europe's shakier banks and settling the continuing debt crisis in Greece with a partial default.

It is unclear whether such a plan would settle the growing popular unrest. Leaders are focused on rebuilding confidence in the financial system, but protesters say they are fed up with the financial system being prioritised over the needs of people.


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The worst weekend violence was in Rome, where 70 people were injured, three critically, after street battles broke out when small groups of young men set fire to cars and shops. Police responded with water cannon, batons and tear-gas.

Tens of thousands turned out in Spain, which is suffering 46 per cent youth unemployment as austerity bites, while about 3000 people took part in London, with some protesting all night outside St Paul's Cathedral. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addressed the crowd.

Demonstrations that attracted about 5000 people supporting the Occupy Wall Street Movement in New York resulted in 70 arrests.

The protesters got sympathy from the chief of the Bank of Italy, Mario Draghi, who is set to take over as head of the European Central Bank next month.

''Young people are right to be indignant,'' he told Italian media. ''They're angry against the world of finance. I understand them … We adults are angry about the crisis. Can you imagine people who are in their 20s or 30s?''

Talks to finalise the French and German rescue plan may extend into the meeting of G20 leaders in Cannes in November, which will be attended by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

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