Blair to visit Chirac in Paris on Sunday

6th May 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, May 6 (AFP) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac will meet with 400 French and British students to talk about Europe, and then hold talks on Iraq and the EU, the Elysee announced Thursday.

PARIS, May 6 (AFP) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac will meet with 400 French and British students to talk about Europe, and then hold talks on Iraq and the EU, the Elysee announced Thursday.

Blair and Chirac will lead discussions about the newly expanded European Union at 11:00 am on Sunday at the Elysee presidential palace in the French capital.

The meeting comes as the two countries celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Entente Cordiale agreement which ended the two nations' historic rivalries.

It was also scheduled to coincide with Europe Day - on May 9, 1950, the first move was made toward the formation of the EU when then French foreign minister Robert Schuman proposed the creation of an organized Europe.

Blair and Chirac will then hold a working lunch, also to be attended by French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the Elysee said.

The discussions are likely to focus on the situation in Iraq and EU issues, with Chirac in an awkward position after Blair, in a surprise U-turn, announced he would call a referendum in Britain on the proposed EU constitution.

Blair's about-face put the pressure on the French leader to do the same, but Chirac said last week it was too early to decide whether the text should be put to the French people in a referendum or approved only by parliament.

On Iraq, as the security situation continues to unravel, Chirac's aides said he was likely to reaffirm that the transfer of sovereignty to a new Iraqi government expected on June 30 would "mark a true break" - although Paris seems less and less convinced about that idea.

Following the lunch talks, Blair and Raffarin will celebrate Europe Day with 600 youths - the 400 invited to the Elysee in the morning plus 200 others chosen by associations like the Robert Schuman Foundation.

The two prime ministers will then speak to the young people, Raffarin's press office said. French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier and junior European affairs minister Claudie Haignere will also attend the ceremonies.

© AFP

Subject: French news

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