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LONDON: Britain's Treasury chief said Sunday that he is ready to step in to save any more banks that get into trouble.

Alistair Darling said the government was willing to take "pretty big steps that we wouldn't take in ordinary times" to help Britain weather the credit crunch.

In the past year the government has acted to nationalize struggling mortgage lenders Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley.

Darling told the BBC that the government also had provided billions of pounds (dollars) in support to the banking sector. He said it was "important to take generalized action as well as being ready to take particular action if you get a particular problem with an individual bank."

But he said he would not tell the Bank of England to cut interest rates in a bid to ease borrowing and stimulate the economy.

"I think it is very important, if you establish an independent central bank, that it remains independent and free of influence from ministers," Darling said. "That's one of the key ingredients of success."

Many analysts expect the central bank to cut its key rate from the current 5 percent next week.

Europe is struggling to respond to the financial crisis that originated in the U.S. housing sector. The leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Italy called for coordinated action after an economic crisis summit Saturday, but offered few concrete proposals and shied away from the sort of huge banking bailout passed by the U.S. Congress a day earlier.

Britain's new Business Secretary, Peter Mandelson, on Sunday criticized Ireland and Greece, which have angered other European Union countries by unilaterally guaranteeing all depositors' savings in their banks.

Mandelson said European countries should act together because their economies are interdependent.

"We are all in this together," he told Sky News.
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