French ministers warn against picking fight with Germany

PARIS (AFP) - Senior French ministers warned on Monday against picking a fight with Germany after the ruling Socialists accused Chancellor Angela Merkel of being "selfish" in her drive for eurozone austerity.

"Debate yes, pugilism no. It is not normal to call into question such or such a leader," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Europe 1 radio.

"There is no reason to face off one country against another."

In a draft document on Europe leaked last Friday, President Francois Hollande's Socialist Party pilloried Ms Merkel for her insistance on austerity as a solution to Europe's debt crisis.

It accused conservative Merkel, who faces elections on September 22, of being obsessed with "Berlin's trade balance and her electoral future".

Senior Socialists have also recently called for a "confrontation" with Berlin to push France's efforts to focus on economic growth measures over austerity.

Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici also said Monday that attacks on Germany would do no good.

"This idea that there must be a 'confrontation' with Germany is wrong and completely counter-productive," Mr Moscovici told Le Monde newspaper.

"We cannot hope to move things forward through denunciation, stigmatisation or division," he said, adding that such attitudes were "a certain way to doom us from the start".

But while warning against confrontation, Mr Fabius said it was legitimate to ask questions about how "countries that are holding back like Germany must be able to strengthen their growth."