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Thursday, 12 March, 1998, 12:54 GMT
European Conference gets underway in London

Heads of government of the fifteen member countries of the European Union and eleven countries that have applied to join are holding an inaugural meeting in London of a new forum for political dialogue.

The British prime minister, Tony Blair, told the meeting, known as the European Conference, that it marked the beginning of a period of reconciliation between the two parts of Europe.

A shadow has been cast over the meeting by Turkey's decision to stay away in protest at its exclusion from formal membership negotiations, which begin with six countries at the end of the month.

The conference is discussing ways of combating drug trafficking and organised crime, as well as environmental issues and the crisis in Kosovo.

From the newsroom of the BBC World Service

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