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Clashes as Euro leaders take to the field

Germany: Angela Merkel pledges to give German MPs first sight of eurozone rescue plan as officials gather in Brussels for pivotal summit

Angela Merkel signalled her intention yesterday to put German domestic opinion ahead of diplomatic niceties as European leaders began five days of intense wrangling over an attempt to resolve the eurozone debt crisis.

At Germany's insistence, tomorrow's gathering in Brussels will be a mere warm-up for a more important summit next Wednesday.

The German Chancellor tried to play down the disruption caused by her decision to push back the timetable. "Thoroughness has to take precedence over speed in combating the euro crisis," she told a meeting of her ruling coalition in Berlin. But the move reflects her determination to get full political support at home before signing up to any further eurozone rescue measures. The move also sent a clear message to eurozone leaders who have been pushing for a more extensive bailout package: Ms Merkel will not agree to anything that German parliamentarians are not prepared to sanction.

Ms Merkel was due to make a declaration to the Bundestag on the eurozone crisis yesterday. But she said she would make the declaration on Wednesday instead, before leaving for the second Brussels meeting.

The German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, insisted at the same meeting of MPs yesterday that Germany would not agree to French plans to use the European Central Bank to "leverage" the European bailout fund.

However, there was little evidence yesterday that any of the domestic obstacles blocking Ms Merkel's path are any nearer to being removed. Instead, there were signs that MPs within her ruling coalition are becoming increasingly nervous about the shape of the plan being formulated to support the eurozone.

Echoing the views of several of his colleagues, Wolfgang Bosbach, a fellow member of Ms Merkel's CDU party, said after the meeting: "I am convinced that the risks are on the increase. More and more people have the feeling that we are not governing but merely reacting and that the markets are driving us towards the abyss."

Such concerns are one of the reasons why Ms Merkel demanded a second summit on Wednesday. The postponement allows Germany's parliamentary budgetary committee to debate plans for the eurozone rescue fund and give them the democratic endorsement that the Chancellor badly needs.

Ms Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said yesterday: "Decisions could not be made on Sunday because, without a discussion and approval by the budget committee, the Chancellor would have had to travel to Brussels without a mandate on these issues."

In an attempt to increase their lead over Ms Merkel's party in the opinion polls, Germany's opposition Social Democrats have demanded that parliament be recalled for a fresh vote on the new shape of the eurozone rescue packages. But fortunately for Ms Merkel Germany's parliamentary rules stipulate that changes to eurozone rescue funds need only be dealt with by budgetary committees.