Italy PM Monti to visit Madrid for euro talks

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti will meet his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy in Madrid Thursday, as part of a tour to tackle the eurozone debt crisis that will also take him to Paris and Helsinki.

The meeting in Madrid will start at 1200 GMT and will be followed by a press conference, the Italian government said in a statement on Monday.

Monti will travel first to Paris to meet French President Francois Holland on Tuesday and then hold talks in Helsinki on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Italian premier, who leads a technocratic government installed after Silvio Berlusconi stepped down in November last year to rescue Italy from bankruptcy, spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday.

The two pledged to "do everything to protect the eurozone" -- following a similar promise by the leaders of France and Germany on Friday and remarks on Thursday by the head of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi.

Italy is keen to lower its high borrowing costs and is pressing for implementation of a deal struck at a European summit last month that would allow the eurozone bailout fund to recapitalise ailing banks directly.

Last week, European Central Bank head Mario Draghi said the ECB was ready to do all in its power to defend the euro, sparking a strong stock market rally and forcing Spanish and Italian borrowing costs down sharply.

With the ECB due to hold a policy board meeting on Thursday, the markets are speculating that it will come up with fresh measures to defend the currency and so help resolve the debilitating eurozone debt crisis.

Over the weekend, the head of eurozone finance ministers Jean-Claude Juncker said the bloc had come to "a crucial point ... We will act together with the ECB ... There is no more time to lose."

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