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Czech president criticizes Obama's bailout plan

BERLIN — The president of the European Union on Wednesday ripped the Obama administration's economic policies, calling its massive deficit spending and bank bailouts "a road to hell."

The comments by Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek of the Czech Republic, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, startled some U.S. and European officials, who are preparing for President Barack Obama's visit next week to several European cities, including Prague, the Czech capital.

In an address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, Topolanek abandoned diplomatic niceties and blasted Washington for approving a $787 billion economic stimulus package, which he said encouraged "protectionist" trade policies. He said the overall U.S. strategy for ending the recession would flood global markets with too many dollars and lead to bigger problems.

"All of these steps, these combinations and permanency, is the road to hell," Topolanek said. "The United States did not take the right path."

Topolanek's critique came one day after his government was toppled by a no-confidence vote by opposition lawmakers in the Czech Parliament. Although he will remain prime minister for the time being, his shaky position at home raised questions about whether he could remain effective as the EU president until his country's six-month term expires at the end of June.

Topolanek's speech to the European Parliament angered some legislators, who rebuked him for presuming that all members of the European Union agreed with his harsh criticism of Washington, or the way he delivered it.

"You still haven't understood what the job of the EU presidency is," said Martin Schultz, a German legislator and leader of the Socialist bloc in the Parliament.

In Washington

Democrats mirror Obama budget priorities: Congressional Democrats welcomed President Barack Obama to the Capitol Wednesday and unveiled budget blueprints that embrace his key priorities and point the way for major legislation on health care, energy and education. Democrats decided to cut spending below levels envisioned in the plan Obama presented less than a month ago, but administration officials and congressional leaders said any differences were modest.

Paulson to write about meltdown: A book coming this fall will offer one of the ultimate inside takes on the economic crisis — from former Secretary of the Treasury Henry M. Paulson Jr. All profits will go to charity.

Czech president criticizes Obama's bailout plan 03/25/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 25, 2009 9:58pm]

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