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Europe

Barroso: Delay Portuguese Vote on EU Charter

European Commission President Jose Barroso has urged his native Portugal to delay its planned referendum on the EU constitution.

Portugal had pencilled in a referendum on the new EU constitution for March. However, the government is in turmoil after President Jorge Sampaio, a socialist, moved to dissolve parliament and call an early vote. "A time of political crisis is certainly not the best moment to discuss the European constitution," Barroso said while attending a conference on European identity in Portugal, according to AFP. The election is expected in February - originally the generally election had been expected in 2006 at the earliest. The present government, under Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopes, has been accused of a lack of co-ordination and interfering with the media. It has also been struggling with budget problems and a poor economic outlook. The opposition has been calling for early elections since the summer, when Barroso, the country's prime minister, left to head the Commission. Spain is expected to be the first country to hold a referendum on the constitution - it has set Feb. 20 as a date. Lithuania became the first country to ratify the text via its parliament in November. (EUobserver.com)

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