Zapatero, Chirac together on Iraq and EU

30th April 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 29 (AFP) - New Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and French President Jacques Chirac pledged on Thursday to work together on Iraq and the EU, ending months of strained relations between Paris and Zapatero's predecessor.

PARIS, April 29 (AFP) - New Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and French President Jacques Chirac pledged on Thursday to work together on Iraq and the EU, ending months of strained relations between Paris and Zapatero's predecessor.

"We hope this will be the best ever period of bilateral relations between France and Spain," Zapatero told a news conference after talks with Chirac at the latter's Elysee Palace.

Chirac told the news conference he and Zapatero had agreed at their meeting - their first official talks since Zapatero took office two weeks ago - to "coordinate" the positions of Madrid, Paris and Berlin on Iraq within the United Nations Security Council.

"Spain will continue working in the political and diplomatic arenas to ensure the Iraqis regain their independence, democracy, stability and peace," Zapatero said.

The election victory of the Spanish Socialist Party leader on March 14 marked a thaw in frosty relations between Madrid and the European Union's two heavyweights, Paris and Berlin.

Zapatero's right-wing predecessor, Jose Maria Aznar, supported the US-led invasion of Iraq, which France and Germany fiercely opposed, and sent 1,300 Spanish soldiers to serve with the occupying forces in the oil-rich country.

One of Zapatero's first announcements after being elected was that he would pull the Spanish troops out of Iraq.

On Wednesday, after meeting German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Berlin, Zapatero said that Madrid, Berlin and Paris were in "intense negotiations" with Washington on a UN resolution on the return of sovereignty to an Iraqi administration.

He also said his government was, like France and Germany, in favour of a constitution for the European Union. Aznar had rejected the text, which is designed to streamline decision-making in the bloc after it expands on May 1 from 15 to 25 nations.

"We want to be close to Europe's driving powers, France and Germany," Zapatero said on Thursday.

"This meeting (with Chirac) marks the start of fully renewed understanding between France and Spain," he said.

"We will work for a Europe that is strong, united, dynamic and without mistrust."

Chirac, who had welcomed Zapatero to the Elysee Palace with a warm handshake at 7:30 pm, said France, Spain and Germany had decided to work "hand in hand" on EU matters.

"This will be loyal and sincere cooperation, in which we will all defend our interests ... but which will be characterised by dialogue and not confrontation, which leads nowhere," Chirac said.

Zapatero and the right-wing French head of state held brief initial talks in Madrid on March 24 on the margins of the state funeral for victims of the March 11 train bombings in the Spanish capital.

They are due to meet again, alongside Schroeder, during Saturday's EU enlargement celebrations in Dublin.

© AFP

                                                 Subject: French news


 

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