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UK still on track after GDP data - Darling

Source: Reuters - Fri 23rd Apr 2010

Britain remains on track to grow by 1-1.5 percent in 2010 after official data showed GDP growth slowed to 0.2 percent in the first quarter, Chancellor Alistair Darling said on Friday.

"I think what we are seeing are developments that are consistent with my view that the economy will grow between 1 and 1.5 percent this year" Darling told the BBC.

"But that's entirely dependent on us maintaining support for the economy until we see signs of private-sector investment coming back (and) we're not there yet" he added.

Darling declined to answer directly when asked if he thought Friday's preliminary estimate of first-quarter GDP would be revised higher, but he noted earlier in the interview that this had been the case for GDP in the fourth quarter.

Darling, who is in Washington for a meeting of ministers from the G20 group of major economies, said it was essential the International Monetary Fund and euro zone countries rapidly agreed on aid for Greece, which faces a fiscal crisis.

"It's imperative that the Eurogroup and the IMF reach a settlement as soon as they possibly can because it has a huge bearing on people's confidence in international institutions."

He denied that Britain's budget deficit - which is a similar size to Greece's as a percentage of GDP - put it at risk of also needing IMF aid.

"Greece is a much smaller economy ... it has problems, not least knowing what is going on with its own statistics" he said.

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