Sep 22, 10:01 AM EDT

French premier rejects notion country is 'sick'

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BERLIN (AP) -- France's prime minister on Monday dismissed the view that his country is "sick," and insisted that it is both willing and able to carry out economic reforms.

Manuel Valls spoke after a meeting in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at which France's efforts to improve its competitiveness were the focus of discussions.

Ahead of Valls' two-day visit to Germany the country's biggest selling newspaper, Bild, referred to France as "Krankreich" - twisting the German word for France, "Frankreich," to instead mean "sick country."

Without identifying the paper, Valls urged Germany to have greater confidence in France.

"France is not the sick child of Europe," he told reporters. "Both the French and the German press need to move away from this caricature view."

Valls acknowledged that his country has to catch up with the reforms Germany undertook at the start of the century, which many economists consider the basis for current German prosperity.

But he sought to reassure a skeptical German public that Paris is serious about doing what it takes to revive Europe's second-biggest economy.

"I understand the doubts, I understand the questions of the German people and its representatives. I also understand the concerns of the German press," he said. "I want to tell the Germans, we will implement the reforms."

Still, Valls made clear he wants Berlin to stop opposing public spending as a means to stimulate the economy. "The French will like Germany if it supports growth in Europe," he said.

Merkel lauded Valls for what she called "France's ambitious reform program" but deferred to the European Commission judgment about whether Paris will achieve its goal.

"We wish them all the best implementing it," she said.

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