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Sarkozy urges courage, calm, unity

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has called for courage, calm and unity to overcome the financial crisis, as well as promising new reforms - without mentioning the loss of France's prized AAA credit rating.

The Standard & Poor's decision to lower France's rating to AA+ was a blow to the country's self-image and to Mr Sarkozy's prospects of re-election, just three months before the first round of voting in the presidential poll.

It could also have far-reaching effects for Europe, potentially raising the borrowing costs for the bailout fund used to rescue struggling members of the eurozone.

The move was one of a spate of downgrades of countries that use the euro which the agency said reflected the absence of a sufficiently bold political solution to the crisis.

The French president has kept silent about Friday's downgrade thus far, instead trotting out his finance minister and prime minister to respond to the move that had been widely expected.

While he also avoided any mention of the downgrade in his first public appearance since it was confirmed, Mr Sarkozy delivered a speech to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of a founding father of the current republic into a kind of campaign rally, while also trying to appear to be above the fray.

"This is a test and since it is, we have to confront it, we have to resist, we have to fight," Mr Sarkozy told an audience in central France.

"We have to demonstrate courage, we have to demonstrate calm."

Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande, who was topping the polls even before the downgrade, has said the move was a result of Mr Sarkozy's failed policies.

"You don't respond to a crisis of this magnitude with agitation, outbursts and polemics," Mr Sarkozy retorted.


From Belfast Telegraph