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Mandelson denies sparking Britain euro suggestions

LONDON, December 3 – British minister and former European Union (EU) trade chief Peter Mandelson denied on Wednesday that he was behind suggestions that London is considering taking Britain into the euro.

Mandelson, who returned to the British government as business secretary in October, downplayed claims by European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso that "people who matter" in Britain were thinking of ditching the pound.

"I haven\\\’t had a discussion with Mr. Barroso about this for years. I think I might have exchanged words when I first went to the Commission in 2004, but not since," he told BBC radio.

Barroso said Britain was "closer than ever" to entering the 15-country eurozone because the global economic slowdown had seen sterling slump to its lowest level against the single European currency since its introduction in 1999.

But Mandelson said that while it remained the government\\\’s ambition to take Britain into the euro when the economic times were right, that point had not been reached.

"My view is that the government is right to maintain the long-term policy objective of taking Britain into the euro, but it is not for now," he said.

"We have enough challenges and difficulties on our hands steering the British economy through this global downturn without taking on the additional challenge and complexity of taking Britain into the single currency."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown\\\’s spokesman insisted on Monday that the government\\\’s position on the euro "has not changed".

The spokesman added: "We see benefits of euro membership but the five economic tests have to be met," he said, referring to tests on economic convergence and other conditions set by Brown when he was finance minister under then prime minister Tony Blair.

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Mandelson\\\’s return to government in Britain took many by surprise. He was forced to step down from Blair\\\’s cabinet twice over scandals, and was long known as an arch-foe of Brown, widely perceived as opposed to euro membership.

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