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French minister: 2011 deficit drops to 5.3 percent
French finance minister says 2011 deficit fell to 5.3 percent, beating government expectations
By The Associated Press

PARIS (AP) ' France's finance minister says the country's deficit fell to 5.3 percent of gross domestic product last year, coming in slightly better than government expectations.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is facing a tough re-election campaign, has staked his credibility on meeting a series of deficit targets, but slower than predicted growth has dogged those efforts. France hasn't balanced a budget in three decades, but Sarkozy has promised to by 2016.

Finance Minister Francois Baroin said Tuesday that the 2011 budget deficit beat the government's expectation of a deficit of 5.7 percent of GDP.

Baroin, spoke at an economic conference in Paris.

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