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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March, 2005, 23:23 GMT
EU-Russia demand Syria withdrawal
Jacques Chirac (left) greets Vladimir Putin
The talk was positive and the criticism muted
The leaders of Russia, France, Germany and Spain have jointly called for Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon.

The statement came after Jacques Chirac of France, Vladimir Putin of Russia, Gerhard Schroeder of Germany and Jose Luis Zapatero of Spain met in Paris.

They also insisted there was no contradiction in the EU and Russian stances on Iran's nuclear programme.

The EU leaders appear to have refrained from criticising Russia's domestic policies, a BBC correspondent says.

Relations between the EU and Russia have been tested over concerns about democracy in Russia and Moscow's involvement in Iran's nuclear programme.

But, on Iran, President Jacques Chirac insisted "there is no contradiction between the Russian position and the position that Britain, Germany and France together are negotiating".

He said Europe's aim was to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, not to stop countries like Iran from using nuclear power.

"Iran must prove that it refuses totally the acquisition of a nuclear weapon," Mr Putin said, also insisting European and Russian positions were the same.

'Softly softly'

They were speaking at a press conference following the summit hosted by Mr Chirac on Friday.

The French president said they had also adopted a joint statement which "insists on the compelling necessity" for the implementation of the UN resolution requiring Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon.

He said the talks had been friendly and the four nations were determined to work together to ensure "peace and democracy throughout greater Europe".

And he said the four would meet again at an EU-Russia summit to be held in Moscow on 10 May.

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Paris says the purpose of these talks was for France to hold out the hand of friendship to Mr Putin and encourage him down the road of political and economic reforms.

The three EU leaders appear to have taken a softly-softly approach, keeping the criticism muted and playing up the positives, our correspondent adds.

They were not as outspoken as US President Bush was when he last met the Russian president and issued a public rebuke to Mr Putin.

It was not clear if the four leaders discussed the issue of human rights in Chechnya, or the recent assassination of Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov.





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