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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 November 2005, 15:22 GMT
EU row looms over Merkel UK visit
Angela Merkel at EU Parliament in Brussels
Mrs Merkel is stressing continuity in foreign policy
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in the UK for talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair that are expected to focus on the EU budget dispute.

Mrs Merkel was sworn in as Germany's first woman chancellor on Tuesday.

On a brief visit to Paris and Brussels on Wednesday, she stressed the need for a more constructive approach to solving Europe's common problems.

Her London trip is set to focus on a row over the EU budget that has pitted the UK against France and Germany.

Budget wrangling

The UK, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, is eager to reach a deal over the budget by the end of the year.

Earlier attempts to reach agreement have ended in stalemate, with the UK refusing to give up its sizeable EU rebate and France rejecting calls to scrap EU farm subsidies.

Jacques Chirac greets Angela Merkel

The BBC's European affairs correspondent William Horsley says Mrs Merkel may well urge Britain to give up its multi-billion-euro rebate for the common good.

But she has also said the rebate is part of a whole set of problems affecting Europe's workings which, according to our correspondent, sounds like the basis for seeking agreement in future.

"There is no alternative now but to undertake every effort to support the British presidency in arranging a compromise," Germany's new foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said in Berlin.

Asked on Wednesday whether she regarded herself as a mediator in EU affairs, Mrs Merkel refused to be drawn, saying: "I see myself firstly in the role of representing German interests as chancellor."

Support for Nato

Mrs Merkel has voiced her support for liberal economic reforms in Europe, of the kind championed by Mr Blair but opposed by her predecessor as chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder.

Merkel has won the chancellorship but not the future
Suddeutsche Zeitung

Speaking in Brussels, she also echoed the US view that Europe's security concerns should be debated within Nato rather than the EU.

"Nato should be the place where people turn first with member states to discuss political issues," she said.

She called for closer ties with the US, but stressed she would stick to Germany's policy of keeping troops out of Iraq.

Mr Steinmeier will visit New York on Monday for talks with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, before travelling to Washington to meet US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other top administration officials.

In Paris, alongside French President Jacques Chirac, she said strong ties with France were vital for both countries and for the EU as a whole.

A look back at Angela Merkel's life in politics

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