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Europe

Britain, France Play Down Differences

British and French leaders meet Thursday with both trying to downplay differences between each other over Iraq and transatlantic relations.

French President Jacques Chirac – accompanied by six ministers – will travel to London for two days of talks. Chirac said that he and British Premier Tony Blair had quarrelled only once, over agricultural policy, and that there had never been a dispute over Iraq. And he said, "there is no difference between the British and the French visions of Europe … we have always had our differences and we have always continued hand-in-hand." Furthermore, he believes that the British people will vote "yes" in a forthcoming referendum on the European Constitution because, "in the end, good sense will triumph over ill temper." But although Chirac with those words sought to emphasize the closeness of the two countries - he earlier in the week was critical of Blair's relationship with US President George W. Bush. "Britain gave its support but I did not see anything in return," Chirac said, referring to Britain'support for the US-led war in Iraq - a war which France strongly opposed. A spokesman for the British government acknowledged there had been differences over Iraq, but said that people should be "grown up" about it. "This doesn’t mean the two leaders cannot work together." Chirac is visiting Blair as part of the celebrations surrounding the centenary of the entente cordiale between the two countries. (EUobserver.com)

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