Sun, Nov 21, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Diplomacy leavened by straight talking


President Jacques Chirac said Friday there was "true friendship" between France and Britain on the second and final day of a state visit to mark 100 years of the Entente Cordiale that ended centuries of rivalry between the two European powers.

Chirac nevertheless used the visit to stress differences over the invasion of Iraq in what The Times called a display of "bad manners."

Speaking to students at Oxford University, Chirac said France and Britain had "never worked in closer cooperation" than in the current fight against terrorism.

He also said the history and values shared by Europe and America had forged a link so strong that it "cannot be challenged by anybody."

But, in a clear attack on the US and its main ally Britain, he came out against military intervention without the support of the United Nations.

"It's not for any given country to consider that a situation is open to stepping in and interfering. It's up to the international community to do so, in particular the UN which alone has the authority to interfere," he said.

Chirac called for UN reform, saying Germany, Japan and India should be allowed to become permanent members of the Security Council.

Earlier he laid a wreath at the tomb of King Edward VII, the British monarch in power when the entente cordiale was signed on April 8, 1904.

Following talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair Thursday, Chirac said the two countries were in agreement on the need for a peaceful and stable Iraq.

And he stressed that Britain and France were in agreement on "manifold areas," apart from their differences over Iraq.

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