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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 September, 2003, 09:34 GMT 10:34 UK
Iraq tops agenda at Europe summit
Tony Blair and Jacques Chirac
Tony Blair (l) will hope to make it up with Jacques Chirac
The leaders of Britain, France and Germany have begun a meeting aimed at finding common ground on Iraq.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac are in talks with Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin.

As well as Iraq, the "informal" talks will also cover other issues such as EU enlargement, Afghanistan and transatlantic relations.

Mr Blair is seeking to win French and German backing for a US-drafted resolution currently being discussed at the United Nations, which is designed to pave the way for a multinational force in Iraq.

Germany and France have criticised the resolution - but have also suggested amendments, in a sign of compromise.

It seems the French are playing hardball while the Germans would like to kiss and make up
The BBC's Ray Furlong

France and Germany were strong opponents of the war on Iraq, while Mr Blair was US President George W Bush's closest ally.

The Berlin meeting is the first time the three leaders have met for trilateral talks since before the war.

BBC correspondent Ray Furlong said there were also differences between the positions of France and Germany on Iraq.

'Common positions'

At a Franco-German summit earlier this week Mr Chirac stressed the need for power to be swiftly handed over in Iraq, while Mr Schroeder remained silent on the issue, our correspondent said.

"It seems the French are playing hardball while the Germans would like to kiss and make up," he said.

Berlin said in a statement this week the aim of the talks was to agree on "common positions" after the Iraq war disagreements.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder
Germany is hosting the three-way talks
But British officials have sought to dampen hopes of anything concrete coming from the talks.

Mr Blair's official spokesman said: "This kind of meeting is a discussion, this is not a formal summit.

"Obviously Iraq is an issue that will come up, but this is not intended to be a drafting session for the UN resolution."

Flying visit

Mr Blair will also want to seek support for changes Britain has proposed to the draft EU constitutional treaty which will be discussed at an inter-governmental conference starting next month.

However, Mr Schroeder has already said he would be against changing the wording of the treaty.

It is a flying visit for Mr Blair, who is meeting Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar at the prime minister's Chequers retreat for further talks on Sunday.

Mr Aznar, also a supporter of action in Iraq, has held regular informal meetings with Mr Blair in recent months.

The BBC's Allan Little
"Diplomatic smiles do not disguise pained relations"

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