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Chirac, Blair Vow to be 'Force of Harmony' in Europe

French and British leaders met in Paris Friday to patch up differences over the future direction of the European Union. French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Tony Blair presented a joint front.

Standing next to Mr. Blair at a joint press conference outside the Elysee Presidential Palace in Paris, President Chirac said they did not want to be a force of division but a force of harmony in Europe. Mr. Chirac said his administration would do everything it could to back Britain's current presidency of the European Union, which ends in December.

The two leaders have clashed periodically over a number of EU issues, ranging from agricultural subsidies to a special rebate granted to Britain, which Mr. Chirac believes should end.

French and British leaders also disagree on just how much to trim back European social benefits, and support economic liberalization measures. A summit on the EU budget in June also collapsed partly because of their differences.

But on Friday, Mr. Blair said it was important work jointly to meet the challenges facing Europe.

"It's clear there's a question being posed of European leadership at the moment by the citizens of Europe, as to how we see how we can make Europe work for its citizens - improve their prosperity their security their way of life," he said.

The British prime minister added that he and Mr. Chirac will address these concerns during an informal summit in Britain, at the end of October.

France and Britain do cooperate closely in some areas, including the fight against terror. Mr. Chirac and Mr. Blair last met in July during the G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. The summit coincided with terrorist bombings in London that killed 52 bus and subway passengers and wounded scores more.