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Tuesday, 4 February, 2003, 16:13 GMT
Vive the differences
French president Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Tony Blair
Friends again, but no changes of heart

It was always likely that the end-of-summit press conference between Tony Blair and President Chirac would be a televised love-in.

There is no mileage for either man to suggest their relationship has broken down beyond repair.

Jacques Chirac and Tony Blair
Saying it with smiles
So last year's falling out was bound to be put behind them. And it was, with talk of a "positive and warm entente cordiale" from the president and even a political "marriage" from the prime minister.

But it was also bound to be the case that the president was not about to roll over on Iraq just because the prime minister had paid a visit to tickle his tummy.

Indeed, the press conference saw the two leaders re-stating their well known, and conflicting, policies.

Give and take

France wants to give the UN weapons inspectors more time to do their work and may veto early military action against Saddam Hussein.

Tony Blair, however, believes the case has pretty much been made against Saddam.

And there were some glimpses of the way the row over Iraq was going to be resolved.

The president insisted he wanted to wait for both Wednesday's statement by Colin Powell and for Hans Blix's second report back on 14 February.

The hint being that these statements might just change his mind.

In the next breath he talked about the need for "give and take" over the issue of agricultural reform - and we all know what that means, "hands off our subsidies".

With smiles

Mr Blair said it was important to remember that France backed the European policy of accepting the UN route.

But the bottom line appears unsurprisingly to be that, in relation to Iraq, nothing has changed as a result of this summit.

That is not to say that things will not change over the next couple of weeks or so. And Tony Blair is still confident he will ultimately get France's backing for a second UN resolution.

But, for the time being, the political manoeuvring and even horse trading continues - albeit with smiles.


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See also:

04 Feb 03 | Politics
04 Feb 03 | Europe
04 Feb 03 | Europe
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