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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 July, 2005, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
What Chirac's mood means for G8
By Stephen Mulvey
BBC News website

Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac
Mr Blair sometimes complains of being patronised by Jacques Chirac
Will French President Jacques Chirac feel like spoiling the G8 summit when he arrives in Gleneagles on Wednesday?

It has been a worry for British officials ever since the row over the EU budget in Brussels last month, whose bitterness shocked even some seasoned observers.

In public, Mr Chirac's criticism of the UK and its allies was outspoken. In private it appears to have been far worse.

"He [Mr Chirac] talked about fat, bloated countries that are not ready to do something for poor countries and looked at us," Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot told de Volkskrant newspaper.

"Things were said that I never heard in 11 years as an ambassador in Brussels."

Olympic factor

Mr Chirac will have been en route from Singapore to Gleneagles when he learned that London beat Paris in the competition to host the 2012 Olympic Games.

Blair to Chirac: How can you defend the Common Agricultural Policy and then claim to support aid to Africa? Failing to reform the CAP means being responsible for the starvation of the world's poor.
Chirac to Blair: You have been very rude and I have never been spoken to like this before. You have been very badly brought up.
Blair: Do you mind, Mr President, if I just explain our position?
Chirac: Yes.
Chirac to Blair: How will you be able to look Leo in the face in 20 years' time if you start this war (in Iraq)?
Source: BBC and newspaper reports

It is a humiliating blow for the French president, which could further dent his battered poll rating at home.

The fact that the UK is perceived in Paris as having fought a dirty campaign will have made it all the more infuriating for him.

"The French tried to play by the rules. Britain came from behind and played a tough game, targeting the French candidacy, deriding it. It has been non-stop denigration," says Jacques Reland, director of the European Research Forum at London Metropolitan University.

But Mr Reland does not share the British fear that Mr Chirac may try to wreck the G8 summit.

The two countries are in agreement on the issues of aid to Africa and climate change, he says, so the French leader has no reason to cause trouble.

"He is on the same wavelength as Blair, even if Blair is busy blowing his trumpet and hogging the limelight," he says. "They agree on the objectives even if there are small differences on how to achieve them."

'No hostages'

Mr Reland acknowledges that the question of trade liberalisation - and the Common Agricultural Policy in particular - remains a sticking point.

You can guarantee Jacques Chirac will attempt to embarrass Tony Blair in every way he can think of
Professor Gwyn Prins, LSE
But he believes both the UK and France want a deal on the EU budget in December, and will therefore avoid further bust-ups.

Professor Gwyn Prins of the London School of Economics, however, sees France still seething with anger over the damage it believes the UK is doing to the French vision of a political Europe.

"You can guarantee Jacques Chirac will attempt to embarrass Tony Blair in every way he can think of," he says.

"He will try to isolate the UK and maximise the distance between the UK and the US. He won't be taking any hostages."

Hard words

Mr Blair and Mr Chirac became engaged in a vicious verbal dogfight at a summit in Brussels in October 2002, with the French president at one point accusing the British prime minister of being "rude".

I presume this means that Chirac will be bringing a packed lunch to Gleneagles?
Peter, Nottingham

There have been further clashes since then - and Mr Blair is known to have felt patronised by Mr Chirac on occasions - but the relationship has always been patched up, and the pair claim to be friends.

In the run-up to the G8 summit, Mr Chirac reportedly joked that one could not trust a nation with a national cuisine as bad as England's.

He also made derogatory comments about a Scottish dish that former Nato Secretary-General George Robertson once offered him.

British officials will probably be relieved if he confines his criticism to the food during the stay at Gleneagles.

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