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Chirac ‘informal’ meeting with Schroeder

GENSHAGEN, Germany, Feb 9 (AFP) – German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French President Jacques Chirac began informal talks Monday likely to focus on economic growth, EU affairs and a hostile takeover bid in the pharmaceutical industry.

Officially, no agenda has been set for their meeting in Genshagen, outside Berlin, the latest in a regular series between the two close allies.

Nevertheless, the lunchtime talks, which their foreign ministers, Joschka Fischer and Dominique de Villepin, also joined, coincide with a number of unresolved issues.

One is a takeover bid by the French pharmaceutical group Sanofi-Sunthelabo for Franco-German giant Aventis, which employs 9,000 people in Germany.

Another is the EU constitution, following the failure of a December summit to agree a framework text for the bloc after it expands from 15 to 25 members on May 1.

They may also discuss proposals for a greater NATO role in Iraq, which both France and Germany have indicated they may be willing to accept despite their opposition to last year’s war to oust Saddam Hussein.

Schroeder will later this week meet British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and on February 18 will host a tripartite summit with Blair and Chirac.


                                                              Subject: France news