The United States and Britain yesterday called for meetings of international leaders in a bid to agree on a solution to the Asian economic crisis. As the consequences of the turmoil in the region's financial markets rapidly took on global proportions, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is in Washington for meetings with President Bill Clinton, made his proposal hours after arriving yesterday. The move came as the US Treasury said it had invited 21 countries to a special meeting on Asia. Officials said the proposal had been aired at a dinner attended by Mr Blair, IMF managing director Michel Camdessus, the US Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and the US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Heightening concerns that the crisis in Asia could feed through to Europe and the US has spurred Western leaders into action. The US government, and several governments in Europe fear the newly competitive Asian countries, which have seen substantial depreciations in their currencies, could cause an increase in unemployment, as domestic industries lose market share. Most governments are anxious that such economic developments do not prompt a slide into protectionism. The US said its meeting, for which no firm date has been set, could take place in the coming months. Britain believes that because it holds the presidency of the European Union, and is hosting a meeting in April of Asian and EU leaders at the Asia Europe Meeting (Asem) summit, it is in a unique position to co-ordinate a global response. Several international leaders will be convening in London over the next few months, starting with a Group of Seven finance ministers meeting at the end of the month. Asem, which will comprise the 15 EU nations and 10 Asian countries, will meet in early April, while World Bank president James Wolfensohn and World Trade Organisation director-general Renato Ruggiero are to be invited to a meeting of the Group of Eight foreign and finance ministers in early May. One week later, the leaders of the G8 will arrive for a summit in Birmingham. All Western leaders appear to agree that the solution to the crisis must involve the IMF, whose prescriptions and conditionality are vital to the success of any rescue measures. Mr Blair yesterday defended the IMF for its tough measures and said that they were necessary, if only to prevent serious damage to European and US economies. In London, British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown addressed finance ministry officials from the Asem countries, calling for greater transparency, not just in economic policy but also within institutions. He called for the IMF to 'bring forward proposals for a code of conduct for transparency in fiscal policy' and 'look for ways to broaden that into other areas'. 'I hope the [IMF] will also pursue other ways of improving the quality and timeliness of economic data supplied to the market,' he said. He said much better information for market players was needed, calling as an example the sudden market corrections which had been taking place in the region. The private sector also needed to improve their risk assessment, and countries and international financial institutions, such as the World Bank and the IMF, must maintain open and continuous dialogue. 'International financial institutions need to strengthen their surveillance procedures. They must pool expertise, share assessments and work together to develop solutions,' he said. 'Above all we must resist the pressure for protectionism, both in trade and against international investment flows. Giving in to such pressures would deepen the difficulties and lengthen the process of recovery,' he said.