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Angela's not for turning - Merkel rebuffs pleas to ease austerity

As shockwaves reverberate throughout the Eurozone following elections in France and Greece, German chancellor Angela Merkel has emphatically rejected calls to abandon austerity measures.

She said structural reforms alongside austerity remain the only way Europe can get through its financial crisis.

In a speech to the German parliament today, Mrs Merkel rejected calls to abandon or scale back austerity measures in certain countries that use the euro.

Debt reduction and growth are the "two pillars" of the strategy needed to bring the bloc out of the crisis, she said.

She said: "Growth through structural reform is important and necessary - growth through debt would throw us back to the beginning of the crisis."

Europe's debt crisis has flared up again in recent days after Greek and French elections highlighted the scale of opposition to austerity.

Greek power-sharing talks are to enter a final third round, as parties struggle to hammer out a coalition deal in the crisis-hit country after general elections produced no outright winner.

Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos, whose traditionally dominant party was hammered in Sunday's poll, is leading the bid to form a coalition.

His party was pushed into third place with just 13.2% of the vote.

Coalition talks have failed so far after the second-placed Radical Left Coalition party, or Syriza, insisted that Greece's tough austerity programme - part of its international bailout commitments - be cancelled or frozen.

The conservatives won the election with 18.9%, followed by Syriza with 16.8 %.

Meanwhile Greece's unemployment rate rose to 21.7% in February, after 336,500 people lost their jobs in the past year.

Official figures showed nearly 1.171 million people were out of work during the month.

The jobless rate a year ago was 15.2 %.

Greece is suffering a fifth year of recession, largely due to harsh austerity measures demanded in return for the international bailout loans.

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