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Last Updated: Saturday, 20 September, 2003, 20:13 GMT 21:13 UK
Leaders find 'common ground' on Iraq
President Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder arm in arm after a summit with Tony Blair
Differences still exist between Tony Blair and the two other leaders
The leaders of Britain, France and Germany have made "progress" in an effort to find common ground over Iraq.

Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said that while there had been "differences of opinion", he and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac had agreed a transfer of power to an Iraqi authority as quickly as possible was desirable.

The sticking point at the talks in Berlin was over the involvement of the United Nations in the post-war country, but Mr Blair agreed it should be a "key role".

He added that whatever the differences between the countries over the reconstruction of Iraq "they can be resolved, and I'm sure they will be".

We still do not agree fully on Iraq but all three of us agree it should be dealt with in the UN
President Chirac

The BBC's Ray Furlong, in Berlin, said that - put broadly - Mr Blair tried to play up the degree of agreement while Mr Chirac knocked it down again.

Chancellor Schroeder hardly commented - careful perhaps not to ruin his meeting with US President George Bush next week, our correspondent adds.

'Different positions'

Also on the agenda at the summit was European defence, the Middle East and the European Union constitution.

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

Following the talks he was optimistic that agreement could be reached.

We want to give the United Nations a more important role, and it is necessary to make sure that political responsibility is transferred to an Iraqi authority as soon as possible
Gerhard Schroeder

"We all want to see, and know there must be, a key role for the United Nations," he said.

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

"Our views are not quite convergent at the moment," President Chirac said after the summit.

He reiterated the French position that there should be a transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people within months.

But he added: "We still do not agree fully on Iraq but all three of us agree it should be dealt with in the UN."

'Huge consensus'

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 was the first time the three leaders had met for trilateral talks since before the war.

Chancellor Schroeder said all three were in agreement that Europe's military capability, along with that of Nato, should be strengthened and that there was "no alternative" to the roadmap to peace in the Middle East.

A Franco-German initiative designed to stimulate economic growth in the EU was also endorsed by Britain.

Chancellor Schroeder said they had agreed that the economic plan "can be pursued as a trio".

And Mr Blair added there was a "huge degree of consensus between us".

The leaders also discussed the controversial draft EU constitution, with the German leader reiterating that he and President Chirac wanted the constitution passed in full.

The BBC's Allan Little in Berlin
"The gap between them is wide but they all want it closed"


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