PARIS – German Chancellor Angela Merkel backed a $162 billion, Europewide stimulus package Wednesday in a gesture to French President Francois Hollande, but the two leaders remained at odds over the bigger, tougher steps needed to end Europe’s spiraling debt crisis.

The so-called “growth pact” was the only obvious area of agreement as Hollande and Merkel went into talks Wednesday night meant to set the stage for a closely watched summit of European Union leaders in Brussels today and Friday.

Earlier in the day, Merkel brushed aside the latest push to pool European debt to ease the burden on countries with debt-weakened economies, arguing that it would be “economically wrong and counterproductive” before governments have shown they can comply with budget rules.