British press chides Chirac for Iraq jibes

18th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

LONDON, Nov 18 (AFP) - British newspapers rapped French President Jacques Chirac on Thursday for reopening old wounds over Iraq on the eve of an official visit to Britain, but looked ahead to improved relations between the two European powers.

LONDON, Nov 18 (AFP) - British newspapers rapped French President Jacques Chirac on Thursday for reopening old wounds over Iraq on the eve of an official visit to Britain, but looked ahead to improved relations between the two European powers.

Tabloids attacked Chirac for saying in a BBC television interview, aired on Wednesday, that he is "not at all sure" that the world has become safer since the downfall of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

The Daily Express said that Chirac had opened his trip to Britain with "a snipe at Blair" over Iraq, while the Daily Mail reported that Downing Street was trying to play down the "rift".

The Sun, which in February 2003 famously dubbed Chirac "Le Worm" for his opposition to the war in Iraq, said Thursday that the "slippery French president" had accused Blair of fuelling terrorism.

The Independent said that Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair should focus on what united them and not on their divisions.

"President Chirac needs Tony Blair as a connection to Washington; Tony Blair needs a repaired relationship with Chirac to prove that he is still a Great European," the newspaper said.

Only 20 months ago Franco-British relations were at their lowest ebb for 40 years, since President Charles de Gaulle vetoed British membership of the European Economic Commission, it said.

"Relations between the French and British governments have returned to a remarkable level of calm, even outward warmth" since then.

"Chirac and Blair may not be friends; they may not agree on everything; but, stripped of the domestically-shaped rhetoric, their objectives and ideas converge," the Independent said.

Despite reading about "rifts" and "clashes" this week, the smaller print on EU defence, on global warming, on African trade and debt, would reflect just how much the two leaders actually agree, it concluded.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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