Chirac met Zapatero to discuss immigration

French President Jacques Chirac and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero met Thursday to discuss immigration and the European Union budget. The riots that have rocked France for two weeks, however, were not on the official agenda.

"The French situation is being dealt with using French measures and is not a topic on the European agenda," said presidential spokesman Jerome Bonnafont.

Chirac greeted Zapatero on the steps of the Elysee presidential palace at the start of the 18th Franco-Spanish summit, which also gathered top ministers from both countries.

Neighboring countries have watched with concern the outbreak of arson and attacks in France that started Oct. 27 following the accidental deaths of two teenagers - one of Mauritanian descent and the other of Tunisian descent - in a disadvantaged Paris suburb.

The violence has launched a round of soul-searching about immigration issues in Europe.

The topic is particularly pressing for Spain, which has had to deal with an influx of clandestine immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa in its North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

Chirac and Zapatero were also due to discuss the EU budget for 2007-2013 that has split the 25-member trade bloc. France has so far refused demands for further cuts to farm subsidies.

They were expected to announce the creation of a Franco-Spanish defense council, along the lines of similar agreements with Britain and Germany, in a bid to strengthen ties between the two nations, the AP reports.


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