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Monday, 23 September, 2002, 10:17 GMT 11:17 UK
EU warns Ireland over Nice Treaty

The European Commission has warned Irish voters that a second rejection of a key EU treaty next month would be interpreted as closing the door on eastern Europe.

The commissioner for enlargement, Guenter Verheugen, said he hoped and prayed that Ireland would agree to the Treaty of Nice in a referendum on 19 October, after rejecting it last year. The Irish Government has since obtained guarantees that the treaty, which sets out the terms for an enlarged EU, will safeguard Irish neutrality. Mr Verheugen also reminded the Irish that - as he put it - EU membership had transformed their country from one of Europe's poorest into one of the continent's most developed.

Correspondents say the warning to Ireland not to jeopardise enlargement is the strongest yet give by the EU. Up to 10 mainly east European countries expect to be invited to join the EU by the end of the year.

From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

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