Sarkozy Warns France Of More Belt-Tightening Ahead

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has told French TV viewers to expect still deeper cuts in public spending as the country struggles to reduce its national debt. Speaking in a rare TV interview after returning from the Eurozone summit in Brussels, Sarkozy said it was a mistake to allow Greece to enter the Eurozone back in 2001 because its economy wasn't ready.

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ARI SHAPIRO, host: And, of course, this crisis stretches far beyond Greece. French President Nicolas Sarkozy went on national television last night to explain his country's part of the deal. He said the French people must expect further belt-tightening measures. Eleanor Beardsley reports that it was a chance for Sarkozy to assert control just six months ahead of a presidential election.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: With his poll numbers at rock bottom, and no good news to announce, Sarkozy took to the airwaves anyway in an attempt to at least get the French to realize the magnitude of the crisis they faced.

President NICOLAS SARKOZY: (French spoken)

BEARDSLEY: If we hadn't worked out a deal in Brussels, said Sarkozy, it would be more than France and Europe facing catastrophe, it would be the whole world. Sarkozy asked the French to remember what had had happened when the Americans let Lehman Brothers fall.

SARKOZY: (French spoken)

BEARDSLEY: After touting France's Triple-A credit rating, Sarkozy said spending would have to be cut further to keep it. He even attacked the sacrosanct 35-hour workweek, a Socialist Party invention, saying it had destroyed the competitiveness of French industry.

SARKOZY: (French spoken)

BEARDSLEY: But when asked if he was running for president, Sarkozy behaved as if it was the furthest thing from his mind. I have no time to think about such things, he said. My job is to protect the French people from this crisis. For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

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