Blair to meet Chirac to discuss EU budget

British Prime Minister Tony Blair was to meet with French President Jacques Chirac before a crucial European Union summit in an effort to resolve their deep divisions over future EU spending plans, British officials said. They said Blair, who is tasked with trying to get a deal on a new 2007-2013 EU budget, would try to bridge differences with Chirac, who has been Blair's top critic against a British proposal which cuts aid to new member states.

Agreement between the two leaders is seen as crucial for a deal on the new budget. A nasty spat, which got personal between them, saw previous negotiations collapse in acrimony in June.

Chirac is demanding that Britain gives up more of its cherished EU budget rebate, worth Ђ5.6 billion (US$6.7 billion) this year. Blair has already agreed to trim it by some Ђ1.2 billion (US$1.4 billion) a year, but in a revised budget blueprint published Wednesday refused to budge further.

Another source of tension is Britain's demand for a review of farm spending in 2008. Chirac has flatly rejected that, insisting the Common Agricultural Policy is not up for renegotiation until 2014, reports the AP. I.L.