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ECB's Praet says Italy must stay on path to lower debt- to paper

ROME, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Italy must keep its public accounts in check and stay on its planned path to lower debt as the economy emerges from a recession, European Central Bank Executive Board member Peter Praet said in interview with an Italian newspaper on Sunday.

Praet said the euro zone's third-biggest economy, which has not grown since the second quarter of 2011, is emerging from recession but risks are on the downside for the fragile recovery and depend on whether the country makes key economic reforms.

"To stay on a sustainable path, it's essential that the government maintain its commitments," Praet said in an interview with La Stampa newspaper. "You cannot afford any slippage on the public accounts."

Praet also said the ECB was ready to act if banking credit dries up and threatens a recovery in the euro zone.