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Sarkozy Sets March 1 Deadline For European Budget Pact

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) and French President Nicolas Sarkozy address a news conference following their talks at the Chancellery in Berlin on January 9.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called for a new European pact enforcing tighter budgetary discipline to be signed by member states on March 1.

Sarkozy, speaking at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin on January 9, said negotiations for the new agreement should be "wrapped up in the coming days and...signed on March 1."

Both leaders also said they're prepared to consider speeding up payments into the 17-nation eurozone's permanent bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism.

Germany meanwhile was able to sell 3.9 billion euro of six-month treasury bills with a negative yield -- the first time this has happened at an auction.

This meant buyers of the bills preferred to pay the German government to keep their money rather than receive interest.

The move highlighted the status of Germany's economy -- Europe's biggest -- as a safe haven in the current debt crisis.

compiled from agency reports