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European socialists meet on economy

PRAGUE, Dec 7 – The Party of European Socialists, the second-largest grouping in the European Parliament, opened a two-day congress in Prague on Monday focused on the global economic crisis and climate change.

One of the first actions was the re-election of former Danish prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, 66, as party president. He was the sole candidate for the top job.

"The important thing for us at this time is how to tackle the recession, which is the worst financial crisis since the 1930s," he said in a speech before the vote.

"The divide between rich and poor has never been greater. We have to change that," said Rasmussen, who has been party leader since 2004.

More than 1,500 delegates from European social democratic, socialist and labour parties are attending the congress, held for the first time in a European Union newcomer state, organisers said.

The Czech Republic was one of 10 mostly ex-communist countries which joined the EU in 2004.

"The congress will focus on the impact of the economic crisis, protecting the climate and protecting and reforming financial markets," said Jiri Paroubek, Czech Social Democrat chief and former prime minister.

The party congress, held twice every five years, coincides with the Monday start in Copenhagen of the landmark 192-nation United Nations conference focused on drawing up a battle plan against global warming.

Tuesday, the second and last day of the congress, will also focus on party strategy.

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