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G20 leaders thrash out crisis as protests rage

World leaders have begun thrashing out a rescue package for the global economy.

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Leaders including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown began talks about tackling the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.

The talks followed a day of protests across London, with more than 4,000 people taking to the streets in an outburst of anger over the handling of the global economic crisis.

More than 80 people were arrested and one man died after a protest outside the Bank of England descended into violence on Wednesday.

Police feared there could be more violence on Thursday, with further protests planned around the London Stock Exchange and near the G20 summit at the ExCel conference centre in the Docklands, in the city\’s east.

G20 leaders began the day with a working breakfast before nearly five hours of formal talks were due to begin later in the morning.

On the agenda are new regulations for the finance industry, extra economic stimulus packages, more money for the International Monetary Fund to help poorer countries, a crackdown on tax havens and a $US100 billion boost for international trade.

The talks began amid clear warnings from France and Germany that unless their calls for tougher regulations for the finance sector were backed by their G20 counterparts, they could walk away from a global economic rescue package.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel made their demands clear at a last-minute joint press conference in London on the eve of the summit.

The two leaders have repeatedly criticised calls by Britain and the US for G20 nations to increase government spending to drive an economic recovery.

Sarkozy and Merkel insist their governments have already introduced substantial stimulus packages and there is a greater need for the finance industry to be subject to tighter rules to prevent a repeat of the economic crisis gripping the globe.

Brown has played down divisions with the European leaders and expressed confidence that a rescue deal can be struck.

But the French president, who had earlier threatened to walk out of the summit, told reporters that tighter rules for tax havens, hedge funds and ratings agencies were a “non-negotiable goal”.

Companies found to break the new rules would effectively be named and shamed while bankers\’ pay would be capped, under the Franco-German plan.

“In the results, we want the principle of new regulation to be a major objective … this is not negotiable,” Sarkozy said, adding it was time to “moralise an immoral system”.

“We are just trying to take responsibility.

“This is a historic opportunity afforded us to give capitalism a conscience, because capitalism has lost its conscience and we have to seize this opportunity.”

Merkel said France and Germany wanted the summit to produce results which would “change the world”.

“Any regulations we don\’t agree here, won\’t be agreed for the next five years,” she said.

“The summit is not about horse trading between regulation and economic growth programs.”

Brown expressed confidence that agreement would be struck on regulation, boosting global trade and job creation.

“We are within a few hours, I think, of agreeing a global plan for economic recovery and reform and I think the significance of this is that we are looking at every aspect,” Brown said.

Obama said it was vital all countries worked together to resolve the economic crisis.

“Make no mistake, we are facing the most severe economic crisis since World War II, and the global economy is now so fundamentally interlinked that we can only meet this challenge together,” he said.

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