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Ireland elections no threat to bailout plan: EU

(STRASBOURG) - An early general election in debt-ravaged Ireland does not pose any threat to its negotiations with the European Union and the IMF over a massive financial bailout, the bloc's economic affairs commissioner said here Monday.

"I don't see that it will threaten the EU-IMF programme or its negotiations," Olli Rehn told journalists on the sidelines of a hearing before a committee of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The elections "will take place... in January, and our negotiations will be concluded by the end of November."

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen announced Monday that he would dissolve parliament and set a date for a general election once lawmakers passed a budget crucial for the international rescue package.

Cowen, who entered a coalition government with the Green Party in 2008, bowed to calls from his disgruntled junior partner to call an election in the wake of Ireland accepting a bailout worth up to 90 billion euros (122.5 billion dollars).

Rehn agreed that it was "essential" for Ireland to pass the austerity budget as part of a four-year fiscal plan, while avoiding direct comment on Ireland's domestic political pressure.

"It is not our task to comment on issues related to democratic politics of any EU member state," Rehn said.

"Having said that, of course, sufficient political stability is important to pass next year's budget in line with the four-year fiscal plan which will form the cornerstone of the negotiations."

Ireland is the second country using the euro currency to require outside assistance after Greece, likewise saddled with a huge public debt and deficit, was accorded a 110-billion-euro credit mechanism by the EU and the International Monetary Fund in May.

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