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Slovak euro fund vote hits snag

A Slovak ruling party said it would abstain today from a vote on expanding the eurozone's EFSF rescue fund, forcing the government to turn to opposition parties to push through a deal agreed by the currency bloc to contain the Greek debt crisis.

Any further delays to the ratification of EFSF expansion, which requires the approval of all 17 eurozone governments, could unhinge markets already under pressure from signs that the crisis is spilling beyond Greece's borders.

With all other eurozone states having ratified the pact to boost the size and powers of the European Financial Stability Facility, Slovak Prime Minister Iveta Radicova put her government on the line by tying a vote in a session slated to begin at 1100 GMT to a confidence motion on her cabinet.

Even they lose the vote, she and two of her ruling coalition partners have vowed to push through the ratification by asking for the opposition's support. The leftist opposition party Smer hinted it would be receptive - in exchange for major concessions including a cabinet reshuffle or early elections.

The fourth ruling party, Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), said it would abstain from the ballot. It argues that, as one of the poorest members of the single currency club, Slovakia should not pay for the debts racked up by more affluent countries.

"We reject this pressure, and therefore will not take part in the vote," SaS Chairman Richard Sulik said.

If, as expected, Radicova loses the vote, parliament can submit the ratification to repeated ballots once she has struck a deal with former premier Robert Fico's Smer party, which said it was ready to discuss the matter.