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Germany calls EU plans to avoid Brexit 'ambitious'

[BERLIN] Germany on Wednesday called a set of EU proposals to keep Britain from leaving the bloc "ambitious" but said it was still reviewing the package ahead of a crunch summit this month.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters that the plan presented by EU president Donald Tusk Tuesday was "an ambitious package that addresses Prime Minister (David) Cameron's key demands".

"We are now reviewing this package in all its details. The German government will continue to play a constructive role in the upcoming negotiations," Seibert said.

He noted that Chancellor Angela Merkel had repeatedly stressed her backing for "a strong Britain in a strong European Union".

"Our goal in the end is to have a comprehensive package that will allow Prime Minister Cameron to lead a strong referendum campaign to remain in the European Union," Seibert said.

"But at the same there are fundamental principles of the European Union that have to be respected - we have always stressed that." Seibert declined to elaborate on any potential sticking points, saying only that Berlin was reviewing the plan "intensively".

While Merkel is seen as generally supportive of Britain's position, she has been sceptical of Cameron's aim to restrict benefits for EU migrants during their first years in Britain.

Tusk's plan includes a four-year "emergency brake" on welfare payments for EU migrant workers, as well as safeguards for countries that do not use the euro and a "red card" system giving national parliaments more power.

Cameron on Tuesday said Tusk's plans showed "real progress" and made it likely that he would campaign to stay in the EU in a referendum expected in June.