(eds: changes 2nd graf to reflect remarks were at press conference)


Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Friday that economically ailing Spain has "a very tough year" ahead of it in 2013.

"The economy will continue in recession for some time," the conservative prime minister said at a press conference where he looked back on his first year in office.

"We are confident that in the last part of 2013 we will be able to give positive news, which will be even more positive in 2014," Rajoy said.

Calling for unity, he urged Spaniards to join forces "to avoid everything that distracts us from emerging from the (economic) crisis."

The prime minister said that for the moment, Madrid has no plans to ask the European Central Bank to intervene in the secondary market through the purchase of Spanish government bonds, though he did not rule out making such a request in the future.

The ECB's willingness to take steps to stabilize the sovereign debt market demonstrates "the irreversibility of the euro," Rajoy said.

The emergency measures and ambitious reforms his government enacted over the last 12 months have established "the fundamental pillars" of economic recovery, the premier said.

"We are aware that we have asked the Spanish people for a very great effort, but it was unavoidable," he said.

In 2013, the government will remain focused on reducing Spain's budget deficit and restructuring a banking sector reeling from the collapse of a decade-long real estate boom, Rajoy said.

The aim of the policies is to spur growth and job creation, the prime minister said.

Spain's unemployment rate now stands at more than 25 percent, representing 5.7 million people out of work.

Asked if he expects the jobless ranks to reach 6 million next year, Rajoy said he and administration are working to prevent that outcome. EFE