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France plays down Britain finance row

Paris – France’s budget minister on Sunday played down talk of a bust-up between Paris and London over banking regulations, insisting there was no "crisis" after a Frenchman won the key post of EU finance chief.

"There is no crisis between Paris and London," said the minister, Eric Woerth, on French radio station RCJ.

"France was bequeathed an extremely important portfolio," he added. "Having a Frenchman in such an important post probably displeases all those who wanted the job, that’s all."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy scrapped a meeting last week, prompting talk of a row over the appointment of Michel Barnier as EU commissioner for financial services.

Barnier’s appointment sparked outrage in London, one of the big world financial hubs, where many accuse him of being against the free market economic model.

Sarkozy said at the weekend that "it is very reassuring that it is French ideas about regulation that are winning out in Europe," adding that the British "were the big losers" in the carve-up of EU jobs.

But as an EU commissioner, Barnier "will no longer be the representative of France and French positions," Woerth said Sunday. "He represents all of the European (Union) countries."