French presidential frontrunner Francois Hollande says that, if elected, he will immediately ask other European leaders to renegotiate a treaty aimed at reducing debts across the continent.
Hollande said if he wins the May 6 presidential election, he would send a letter the next day to other leaders with a proposal for a "growth pact" to add to the existing treaty, which focuses on tightening budgets. Hollande wants the growth pact to include jointly issued euro bonds to finance infrastructure projects.
Polls suggest Hollande will win the election, unseating conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel led the push for Europe's budget treaty. Hollande told reporters Wednesday he is "ready to open this discussion ... with Madame Merkel."
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.
PARIS (AP) -- Presidential frontrunner Francois Hollande has promised to intervene with companies to avoid mass layoffs and says he will rein in the financial world if he wins France's top job.
Conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy is fighting to stay in power but polls suggest that he will lose a May 6 election runoff to the Socialist Hollande, who has railed against Sarkozy's budget cuts and promised new government spending.
Hollande pressed his leftist platform again Wednesday, playing to public fears about jobs and anger at bankers and ratings agencies who are widely blamed in France for the financial crisis and worsening the country's economic prospects.
French media have reported that Sarkozy's advisers are pressing company executives to avoid announcing big layoffs during the presidential campaign, and predict a wave of job losses after the election.
Responding to these fears, Hollande told France-2 television on Wednesday that "before any irreparable decisions are made, I should intervene."
He said he would try to avoid a parade of layoff announcements and that company executives would have "responsibilities to take."
He didn't elaborate on how he would avoid job losses or name any particular companies.
Polls show that jobs are the leading concern of French voters. Both candidates have made pledges during the campaign to save jobs at a ferry operator on the English Channel and a steel plant in northern France.
In Hollande's final campaign brochure, released Wednesday, he vowed to resist "the power of money" if elected and says his priorities would include "bringing finance to heel."
Some economists say the only way for France to calm jittery investors is to pare down its debts and boost growth prospects by changing laws to make it easier to hire and fire workers and open and close companies.
Sarkozy's finance minister shot back at Hollande's spending plans Wednesday, warning that countries across Europe have to do more to cut costs.
Renewed market turmoil this week shows "the crisis never really left," Finance Minister Francois Baroin said on Europe-1 radio. "All countries are in debt. All countries must reduce their deficits. All countries have to make efforts, including France."
Baroin defended Sarkozy against those who blame him for France's high unemployment and stagnant paychecks.
"What is going badly (in France) is linked to a global crisis," Baroin said.