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Britain to veto French E.U. choice

Brussels: Britain will veto Michel Barnier, French Foreign Minister, if he is put forward as the French President, Jacques Chirac's next choice to become President of the European Commission, it has emerged. The threat comes as the Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, begins urgent consultations with E.U. colleagues to find a replacement for Romano Prodi after a row prevented agreement at the Brussels constitutional summit last week. Mr. Chirac and the German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, had supported Guy Verhofstadt, Belgian Prime Minister, but the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, made clear the Flemish Liberal was too integrationist. Mr. Chirac retaliated by blocking Chris Patten, the E.U. External Relations Commissioner, who had been nominated by the European Peoples Party, the dominant Centre-Right bloc in the European Parliament. Mr. Patten was not Britain's choice, but was vetoed by Mr. Chirac on the grounds that he was British and from a non-euro zone country, and spoke poor French.

- Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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