Brussels gathering: will be a diversionary tactic ahead?

Tony Blair was today preparing for a summit showdown over Britain’s Ј3 billion European Union rebate. The Prime Minister frankly admitted he could not see agreement being reached after talks with French President Jacques Chirac.

Mr Blair will now try to focus on the fate of the EU constitution following its rejection by France and Holland. Ministers view President Chirac’s renewed calls to abolish the UK refund as a diversionary tactic ahead of tomorrow’s Brussels gathering.

After a whistle-stop tour of European capitals, the PM last night hinted at dawning recognition that the treaty was dead, saying there had been “some convergence” on the issue, tells the Scotsman.

On the eve of a European Union (EU) summit, to be held Thursday in Brussels, British Prime Minister &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Tony Blair made a four-nation Europe tour to prepare his country for taking over the rotating EU presidency.

On Monday, he first met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to seek Russia's support for the agenda of a summit of the Group of Eight industrial nations on July 6-8.

Moscow recognized "the need to reassure the rest of the world that the movement for democracy continues, that they are addressing human rights concerns, and that they are also addressing the concerns of investors."

The Russian government also expressed its support for US and EU efforts to persuade Iran not to develop nuclear weapons and for the implementation of democracy in &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Iraq and Afghanistan.

Then, within two days, Blair flew from Moscow to Berlin and Paris, passing by Luxembourg, which will pass the rotating EU presidency to London on July 1, shadowed by the French and Dutch rejection of the EU constitutional treaty and British-French " sharp disagreement" on the EU budget over the 2007-2013 period.

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