Page last updated at 15:37 GMT, Sunday, 21 September 2008 16:37 UK

Paulson wants a speedy debt deal

US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says the rescue plan will 'protect Americans'

Henry Paulson has urged Congress to move quickly to pass a $700bn (382bn) package to tackle the worst financial crisis for decades.

The US Treasury Secretary plans to set up a fund to buy back much of the bad debt held by banks and financial institutions around the world.

Speaking on US television, Mr Paulson said the financial market turmoil was a "humbling experience".

He also urged other countries to adopt similar schemes to shore up confidence.

"I wouldn't bet against the American people and I wouldn't bet against the long-term fundamentals of this country.

"But this is a humbling experience to see such fragility in capital markets and to ask how did we ever get here," Mr Paulson told NBC's Meet the Press.

Congressional and Treasury officials have been meeting over the weekend to try to get the package signed into law within a matter of days.

International rescue

Under the draft Treasury plans, financial institutions with "significant operations in the US" are eligible to sell or auction their bad debts to Treasury fund.

Banks eligible to sell to this Treasury-owned bank would be banks with significant operations in the US - so, for example, Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays would be able to dump their toxic mortgage-related investments on the Treasury

The fund would aim to sell off these mortgage-related debts in the future.

That would mean a number of British banks could sell their soured assets to the Treasury-owned bank - via an auction - according to the BBC's business editor, Robert Peston.

On Saturday, US President George Bush defended the plan, saying the cost to taxpayers of shoring up markets was better than the alternative of job losses and diminished pensions.

"I'm convinced that this bold approach will cost American families far less than the alternative," he said.

"Further stress on our financial markets would cause massive job losses, devastate retirement accounts, further erode housing values, and dry up new loans for homes, cars and college tuitions."

Regulations overhaul

The Treasury has revealed little detail of its ambitious package, other than the estimated cost of buying these bad debts and who is eligible for the scheme.

... the world is changing very fast, but the governance of the global financial system has not caught up with it and that's what's got to change
Gordon Brown

Mr Paulson has asked for congressional approval to raise the amount the government can borrow to $11.3 trillion (from $10.6 trillion) to cover that cost.

Analysts say the devil was in the detail, for example, how much the Treasury will pay for the banks' toxic assets.

Some members of Congress are uneasy at the thought of the taxpayer taking on hundreds of billions of dollars of currently worthless debt, the BBC's North America editor Justin Webb says.

But the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, Steney Hoyer, has said he expects quick action.

After a week of turmoil, stock markets around the world rallied on news of the rescue plan, with the UK's FTSE 100 closing on Friday with its biggest one-day gain.

The US Treasury Secretary also said that the government would be stepping up action to increase the availability of capital for new home loans.

Once this difficult period was over, Mr Paulson said, the government's next task would be to overhaul bank regulations.

'New economy'

The UK prime minister said on Sunday that one of the lessons from the global financial crisis is the need for international regulation to be brought up to date.

Gordon Brown told the BBC: "We're in a new economy, a global financial economy, the world is changing very fast, but the governance of the global financial system has not caught up with it and that's what's got to change."

Mounting fears that the credit crisis is beginning to spread out through the financial system have rocked shares and companies recently.

Investment giant Lehman Brothers collapsed last Monday, rival Merrill Lynch was bought out by Bank of America, and the US government has bailed out insurer AIG with an $85bn rescue package and state-backed mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

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