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EU Prepares for Economic Summit as France Touts Subsidies

The European Union will hold two summits next month focusing on efforts to deal with the global economic crisis.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, says an emergency summit in Brussels March 1 is aimed at stopping calls for trade protectionism by some EU countries. He expressed hope the meeting will resolve differences between countries seeking to protect domestic industries and jobs and those willing to maintain EU cooperation.

The prime minister's comments appear aimed at French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who Monday announced an $8 billion aid package for French carmakers in return for keeping jobs and factories in France.

French ministers insist the subsidies are not protectionist, but rather measures aimed at defending French industries and jobs during a time of crisis.

A second, regular summit will be held March 19 and 20.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia will actively work with what he called its EU partners, to prepare for a Russia-EU summit in May. The summit is expected to act to develop a new Partnership and Cooperation agreement, to replace a previous deal signed more than 10 years ago.

The Russian minister spoke after talks with his Czech counterpart Karel Schwarzenberg and other EU officials.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters