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EU Nears Deal to Welcome New Members, Delays Turkey Membership - 2002-12-13

The European Union held last-minute negotiations to break a deadlock with Poland and two other candidates for membership over financial aid. Turkey also reluctantly accepted a deal to delay its own long-running drive to become an E.U. member.

The Turks reacted furiously when they were told that they would have to pass a review of their human rights situation in December 2004, before the European Union would give them a starting date for their accession talks. Prime Minister Abdullah Gul accused the group of being prejudiced against his country.

Later, however, Mr. Gul seemed resigned to what Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson called a non-negotiable timetable for Turkey's accession. Meeting reporters at the E.U. summit in Copenhagen, and speaking through an interpreter, he vowed that Turkey will continue to push through far-reaching economic and political reforms.

"We will continue with our reform process regarding human rights, democratization and economic reform," Prime Minister Gul said. "These will be done for the Turkish people. It doesn't matter what we get from the E.U. This is for our own people."

Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller says it will take six months after the European Union deems Turkey fit for membership for the country to actually begin accession talks. Mr. Gul says he received assurances from E.U. members that the bloc will not put new obstacles in Turkey's path.

With Turkey's application put on hold for the next two years, the E.U. leaders moved on to conclude deals with Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, who, along with seven other countries, are slated to enter the union in 2004.

All three, but especially the Poles, are demanding more money from the union before they sign up to membership. Germany offered a deal whereby Poland would be allowed to convert one billion dollars in aid that it would receive during its first three years of membership into cash for immediate use.

But Polish officials say they are not convinced and have to study the plan further. An E.U. diplomat says the Czechs and the Hungarians are hanging on to the Poles coattails.

The European Union would like to wrap up the summit late Friday but is prepared for the bargaining to extend into Saturday. One Hungarian diplomat says he brought enough underwear to last him through Sunday.