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British, French Leaders Continue Disagreement Over Iraq

The leaders of Britain and France, meeting in London Monday, have found common ground on a variety of issues, but disagreement remains over Iraq.

Earlier this year, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac strongly disagreed about going to war in the first place. Now in their first summit since the end of the conflict, the two men still remain apart on the transfer of power to the Iraqi people.

At a news conference, the French president said American policy in Iraq was now generally heading in the right direction, but incomplete. "I think that it is extending over a somewhat too long period and it does seem to me a somewhat incomplete policy because I believe that what is important in ensuring that the Iraqis accept this is the role of the United Nations. And the role of the United Nations is not clearly specified, not as clearly specified as it should be," he said.

On the issue of developing European defense policy, the two seemed much closer together. Mr. Blair said it was not a matter of choosing between NATO or Europe when it comes to defense. "There is nobody I know of in Europe that wants to see European defense go forward at the expense of NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization]," he said. "NATO will remain the cornerstone of our defense."

Mr. Chirac agreed, but stressed the need for much closer European defense integration. "We believe that there are a number of operations which can be carried out. We have talked about Macedonia, we have talked about Africa, more generally speaking, the Balkans. There are operations, which need to be carried out by us and it needs to be properly prepared, properly led and properly operated," he said.

The two leaders pledged to work closely in combating terrorism and improving the environment.