French President Nicolas Sarkozy met with senior cabinet officials at his office in an emergency meeting on Friday as reports circulated that France may be about to lose its triple-A credit rating with ratings agency Standard & Poor's.
With European sources warning that downgrades were imminent for several euro zone states, Finance Minister Francois Baroin was due to appear on France's nightly television news at 7 p.m. British time.
Prime Minister Francois Fillon arrived at the Elysee presidential palace for the unscheduled meeting at 6:15 p.m. British time, a Reuters journalist on site said. Baroin and spokeswoman Valerie Pecresse, also budget minister, had arrived earlier.
European sources told Reuters that downgrades of several sovereign ratings in the euro zone were imminent.
The Financial Times, citing sources, has reported that Standard & Poor's ratings agency plans to downgrade France and Austria's triple-A credit ratings by one notch each. Les Echos business daily said Portugal, Italy and Spain would see their grades lowered by two notches.
Earlier on Friday, Sarkozy reaffirmed in a meeting with his finance minister on Friday that he is committed to taking strong decisions in the coming weeks to boost growth, employment and competitiveness, his office said.
The statement made no reference to France's credit rating, which sources have said would be cut later on Friday by Standard & Poor's.
It said Sarkozy, who is meeting unions this month to discuss proposals to overhaul labour rules and welfare financing, had met Finance Minister Francois Baroin at scheduled talks with business leaders at Sarkozy's office.
(Reporting By Nicholas Vinocur and Chine Labbe; Editing by Catherine Bremer, Ron Askew)